Make every show like it’s your last
September 11 – November 1, 2015
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious exhibition with UK artist Ryan Gander, his first solo presentation in Canada. Comprising a shifting selection of new and recent works, the show centres on the artist’s ongoing conceptual investigations and playful cultural cross references.
Gander’s complex and unfettered conceptual practice is stimulated by queries, investigations or what-ifs, rather than strict rules or limits. As alluded to in the title, the exhibition itself becomes a site for revealing or elliptical suggestion. We are thrown off balance perhaps or made aware of the underlying structures within the gallery as we view individual pieces. Appearing a seemingly discarded hand-written seating diagram for a special dinner, Career seeking missile (2011) lies crumpled on the floor, at once an informal gesture acting as a foil for the often unseen precarious mix of personalities and individuals invited to such events. Similarly the animatronic eyes, eyelids and eyebrows of Magnus Opus (2013), are triggered into differing expressions and responses in direct activation by our movements as we visit the show, consciously connecting us to the very act of looking.
Ideas of concealment, accessibility in every sense, and of a deliberate obfuscation to send our minds challenged and reeling, has been a constant ploy for Gander. Work produced is characterized most typically by an intellectual as well as formal rigour, often drawing together a layered range of sources and referents. Gander is a cultural magpie in the widest sense, his far-reaching curiosity in the world around us taking popular notions apart only to rebuild them in new ways. For example, in Imagineering (2013), the video and associated off-site poster campaign seen throughout Vancouver, we see what appears to be a short television commercial promoting imagination in the British public, as if commissioned by the British government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Working to Gander’s brief, it was produced by an existing commercial advertising agency. There is a clear sense of play in the way work is constructed, and play as both an intellectual mode as well as a physical activity.
Language and narrative play an overarching role in his work, not least in his series of Loose Association works first begun in 2002 which stand undefined somewhere between a presentation, a performance and a lecture, to be presented as an artist’s talk, or rather conversation, here in Vancouver. As Gander speaks through a sequence of illustrated subjects, his recognizably digressional approach creates a series of happy encounters between forms rather than simple discoveries. The series of sculptures I is … (2013) recall the hiding place dens made by a child from all manner of household items including bed sheets, golf umbrellas, cushions and laundry racks, yet here are remade in memorializing marble. They evince a smart way with the art of storytelling in an immensely complex yet subtly coherent body of work which in its combination of the personal with the historical, delivers an emotional pull that is not only intellectually arresting, but also affecting in its humour. Its delight in suggesting a dialogue between seemingly disparate objects or of provoking a myriad of associations is tinged of sadness.
Organised by CAG and produced in collaboration with Frac Île de France — Le Plateau, Paris; Manchester Art Gallery, UK; Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland; OK Offenes Kulturhaus / Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.