‘Gerald Vaandering — This Salty Water’

Joan Sullivan
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Artist’s latest show examines how the economy influences culture, affects people’s lives

Gerald Vaandering’s solo exhibition “This Salty Water” has the kind of verve that makes the gallery space not just intriguing but exciting.

Part of it is in the size of the works, often quite big (two are birch or aluminum dance floors), and their crisp, utilitarian mounting on four square metal pins.

Part of it is the layering and overlayering of striking, unfussy elements: figures, line-coded text, dots and lines of paint that pump in energy and focal points and entire environments, and colours that are bright and bold and arranged in attention-grabbing palettes of (for example) red, purple, green and black.

And part of it is the thematic ripped-from-the-headlines currency. Vaandering is deeply concerned with the way economy influences culture, the way it moves people.

“This Salty Water” flings or plunges them into a propulsive vortex.

From the start these are physical pieces.

Vaandering has his business suit-clad models bounce on trampolines or dive into water tanks, and he photographs them mid-air, or mid-descent.

The ordinary is thus transformed into something impossible and fantastic, even mythic, as, like Icarus, they are aloft, but falling.

In “Controlled Dive,” for example, a woman in conservative dress and shoes and holding a purse is upside-down in a whirlpool of numbers.

The man in “Looking Up” is kicking for the surface, while another, in “Side Stroke,” seems to have just managed to get his head above water.

The works are serigraphs with slight fluctuations of media (acrylic paint, enamel).

A calligraphic feel comes from the use of stock market indexes pulsing above or below a coat of paint.

The manipulation of colour adds drama, with unexpected pairings (like orange over purple) and cascades of aqua and crimson.

There is so much sheer motion, figures captured in a flash of tumble, arc or plummet.

In “Drifting.” a man drops into a background of clouding, eddying tumult.

All this is monochrome black and white, with thin parallel lines in yellow, blue and red scrimming down the front.

In “Positive Normative” (the title references different economic systems), a man clutches a briefcase, his figure in black, the split-screen planes behind him in violet and lime, offset with a white “editing” mark.

In “Leaps, Long Term Options,” a man hangs in suspension, black on red over purple, with green lines pluming, maybe as clouds, or perhaps foretellers of his downfall.

A quartet of smaller prints, like “Grey Man,” are outlines against fields of strong tones, which here is grey over blue with a yellow graffiti flourish and red pocking.

The dance floor works include “My Soul’s Form Bends,” a choreography of black and white and red on silver, hefty and shimmering.

In one sense, the pieces are like unscrolling stills from a movie: kinetic, impressive and cinematic.

Each is cast with character, and set with a situation, and together their esprit and animation enact a considerable tale.

“Gerald Vaandering — This Salty Water” continues at the Christina Parker Gallery until Oct. 26.

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