The Contemporary Art Gallery’s exhibition of Tim Gardner’s work in Vancouver is both a homecoming of sorts and an overdue introduction. In early 2007, news that Gardner was exhibiting at the National Gallery in London, England, came as a surprise to all but a few art world insiders. Who was this Canadian in the world’s pre-eminient painting museum? His under-the-radar trajectory illustrated a growing trend where homegrown art talent has learned to seek out opportunities abroad. He had gone from the University of Manitoba to graduate studies at Columbia University in New York, worked in Attila Richard Lukacs’ studio there, and then went on to representation by top commercial galleries in New York and London.
And what’s not to like? Gardner’s watercolour paintings idealize the natural beauty of mountain ranges and coastal scenes and carry a contemporary edge where snow-capped peaks are foregrounded by a pair of high-range skiers, or hikers move through a verdant interior wilderness, or a lone windsurfer gazes at an ocean horizon. There’s something infinite and intimate in the work, linking Gardner to the likes of both Eric Fischl and Caspar David Friedrich.
Paired with Gardner at the CAG are Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicholas Laverdière, better known as BGL, who cover the other end of the Canadian art spectrum. The Quebec City trio has been charming audiences across the country with a signature brand of politically astute and coyly absurdist installation art. In their new work at the CAG, marshmallow + cauldron + fire=, a rotating tree sculpture is balanced on one side by a branch of worm-eaten green plastic leaves and on the other by a hanging chainsaw. The precarious sustainability of resource-based economies and the natural environment links to Alexander Calder and modern pioneer romance. There is also a rendering of an open campfire, complete with a cauldron “roasting” over plastic flames. This supplies the answer to BGL’s title formula: marshmallow + cauldron + fire= what? Fun. (555 Nelson St, Vancouver, BC)