An Exhibition of New Print and Multimedia Work
The Earth shifts elusively, jumping and distorting, looking like the moon shining luminously behind a silhouetted forest. But it's the planet Earth. We are not supposed to see our blue-green globe from this vantage. And that's just the point. Nicholas Vandergugten wants you to view our home planet from a disparate perspective. He has provided the platform for the viewer to reflect on the idea of “what if…?” This question seems to thread through Vandergugten's work.
Nicholas Vandergugten’s collection of prints and video at the Fifty Fifty shows a formalization of intent in his art process. Nicholas works with the large epical themes of love, personal meaning, and our relationship with nature and each other. From the earlier print works such as the Miner/Muse series and text based work, some of which have been included in this exhibit, Nicholas is continuously stripping down the arduous print process and the intention of his work. This is apparent in his new print work of large-scale hands in which he examines the art of the gesture of the human figure, distilled to just the hand. The hands are bold yet comforting in a way that only print can be. One can see the relief of the deliberate cut into the large lino, which Nicholas buys from flooring companies. The images have been painstakingly worked and hand rubbed like a conscientious lover. Using his invention of vellum paper, disc baren, and epoxy, Nicholas wanted to create large-scale prints like none before him. You can see the progression of perfecting the process in the 3 x 4 foot works if you look carefully from one to the next. Most of the hand images portray the fingers laced together, cradled, ready to hold something, and one print is of a hand holding a seed head of grass, ready to throw. The scale of the voluminous, red-toned hands allow the viewer to be enveloped by the gesture. Some have said that they feel cradled by the hands or see them in a more sexual context, and some see a spiritual light radiating from the palms. This is what Vandegugten wants to hear. At the crux of his work is his desire to create a platform, not an opinion–a nudge for further introspection or dialogue.
Vandergugten's text based one off prints are a good example of this platform. In the laborious task of printmaking, Nicholas began writing down ideas on sticky-notes to ponder later. He stuck the notes on the wall, side by side. One day he would get to them. Meanwhile, while looking at them abstractly, he realized that they were works unto themselves. This gave him a great feeling of freedom. Like his influence, John Baldessari, he found potential in the narrative and associative power of text within the boundaries of art. He created one off prints of the sentences without personal judgment, knowing that he came to them with honesty. The bold text and 8” x 10” black frames have given these whims and hunches license to exist.
Vandergugten's examination of the overview effect led him to create the video loop called Diving Bowl, which is part of the Antimatter Film Festival on now in Victoria. The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. From space, astronauts claim that national boundaries vanish and that the conflicts that divide humanity become trivial. They talk of a need to create a global society, united by the obvious imperative to protect our "pale, blue dot.”
To create the Divining Bowl video, Nicholas projected an image of the planet Earth through the side window of a car onto a backdrop of the forest at night. A video camera was in the passenger seat pointing out at the projection as he drove through the forest-lined roads. The result is a disjointed, jittery and distorted image that is both compelling and discomforting. In the gallery the image is played on a loop and projected onto a piece of mylar attached to the window, so it can be seen from both inside or outside.
Nicholas Vandergugten's work at the Fifty Fifty gently nudges us towards the lofty ambition of an overview effect. His honesty and sincerity to tackle grandiose ideas comes through, and one wants to encourage his zeal. Nicholas' repulsion of pretension keeps the work reserved and sufficiently spare. One must take their time and allow the words, images, and video take you to a state of cognizance. “Truth as real as the bottom of a lake”–come on, you know what he means.
Nicholas Vandergugten will be showing at the Fifty Fifty Arts Collective, 2516 Douglas St, Victoria BC, until November 9th.
Jillian Player is an artist and occasional writer in Victoria BC