Volume 95, Issue 84

Wednesday, March 13, 2002
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Vaadering unclear about What Lies Beneath his art

Student filmmakers get festive

Brewed in Canada paints beer history

Shaggy recycles some classics

Vaadering unclear about What Lies Beneath his art

By Shanon Proudfoot
Gazette Staff

Gerald Vaandering's What Lies Beneath at the Michael Gibson Gallery is an exercise in deliberate ambiguity.

In his artist's statement, the Western visual arts graduate warns viewers against trying to comprehend his pieces, but rather advises them to "engage" with them.

The predominantly large encaustic pieces (wax and pigment on board) are manipulated photo images primarily rendered in black and white, with pastel-hued highlights.

The show's most intriguing work, appropriately located just inside the front entrance, is the title piece. "What Lies Beneath" is a crowd scene in which all, but one of the figures, are turned obliquely away from the viewer, who is made to feel part of the crowd. The lone figure who looks out from the picture is a young girl.

Many of the works, including "Thumbs Up" and "Gain ers," feature middle-aged men in suits, strolling in small groups. The backgrounds of these works are prints of newspaper stock market report pages.

One might assume these works represent critiques of the capitalist business world, but aside from the slightly ironic titles, there is nothing to indicate this is the artist's intent.

The lack of discernible social and political commentary in the works is jarring because it is rare for an artist to produce a visual image without an underlying message.

"Topography" and "Topography II" reveal the artist's process of visually breaking down photographic images into indecipherable shadows and highlights. With these pieces, it seems that the artist urges the viewer to look beneath the formal qualities of the works, but, again, the intention remains unclear.

What the show lacks in clarity, however, is more than compensated for by the innovative setting.

The gallery's gleaming hardwood floors, modern lighting tracts and smooth Barry White soundtrack provide a funky minimalist backdrop for the artworks.

The most natural progression, of viewing the show clockwise from the front door, lends coherence to the formal development of the pieces. The works increasingly include collage-like text or newspaper print and brightly coloured horizontal lines.

The meaning of these elements is unclear, which perhaps reveals the artist's desire to have his audience engage with the works in a non-intellectual way.

One can't help but admire Vaandering for providing a snapshot of modern culture without imposing his interpretation on the images. Nevertheless, the show defeats one of the most interesting elements of artistic production by not providing a glimpse into another's world view.

What Lies Beneath provides an interesting example of formalism, but proves frustrating for viewers seeking a definitive statement from the artist.

Gazette File Photo
"A SNAPSHOT OF MEDIA CULTURE." Gerald Vaandering's "Majorrally" is part of What Lies Beneath at the Michael Gibson gallery.

What Lies Beneath is at The Michael Gibson Gallery (57 Carling St.) until Mar. 30. Admission is free.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002