For the past 15 years, I have explored how our collective cultural activities are very much a form and reflection of how and why we hunt. I have explored this concept by using the camera as a paintbrush and manipulating my photographs first in the darkroom and then eventually, years later with digital technology. In my earlier work I transferred the photographs into encaustic (wax) images. More recently, I have used metal and serigraph printing technology. In either case, I am deploying traditional printmaking to a different end. Taking the image for its own sake becomes the foundation for exploring my work’s other dimensions. “In particular I identify how human culture ‘captures’ images in order to wrest meaning from an otherwise inchoate reality.”
The following is and excerpt taken from Artscape magazine Dec. 2007 Written by Susan Scott
For Vaandering, the question he is driven to ask is how economics and consumerism affect our society, our culture, our children, and our future. Born in Windsor and raised in Brantford, Vaandering obtained a liberal arts degree, then taught school for seven years in Calgary and London. In 1989 he left teaching to obtain an Honours BA in visual arts at The University of Western Ontario, becoming a full-time artist in 1991. For two years, Vaandering struggled to find his artistic voice. Then he came across pictographs of ancient hunters while on a canoe trip, and the ideas that still inspire him were set in motion. “I wondered: What makes us different? Are we different?” he says. “I don’t think so. I think our psyche is the same. The way we hunt is different, but we are still hunter-gatherers. Only instead of stashing food on pyres away from the wolves, we stash [money] in the bank.” Vaandering began photographing people in Toronto’s commercial hub, and today has hundreds of images. These men in suits and rushing people serve as the basis for much of his work. He has overlaid them with pictographs of ancient hunters holding rocks and clubs, superimposed them onto stock printouts, obscured them with graphs that show net worth or stock value, and placed them behind bar codes. Vaandering’s view is that economics and consumerism drive our culture and turn us into commodities, twist our values so financial worth is personal worth, and create a spiritual void. “I was very critical at first, but I understand I am complicit,” he says. “I’m not pointing an accusatory finger. But you’ve got to ask the question, is this the way we really want to live?” This theme is again the inspiration for Vaandering’s show Under the Influence at the St. Thomas Elgin Art Centre. Another is the fragmentation of our world and how our understanding of it is restricted by culture and personal viewpoint. The show’s centerpiece is Where I think, there I am, in which he divided a 5 by 10-foot wood panel into halves. In the left half, people are rushing past a backdrop of stock market numbers and masked by a huge green brushstroke and red circles. The right side is harder to decipher visually. It is only by viewing the left side that you can also see people in right, the larger picture giving clarity to the individual images. Other works in the show build on this idea of fragmentation, which is an essential part of racism and prejudice. Some consist of small squares that appear abstract but when “read” together form a recognizable picture. Others are steel blocks with multiple images. “You can’t see everything and neither can I. Nobody can, I don’t care how informed they are,” says Vaandering.
Susan Scott is a writer and visual artist.