Stephen Waddell 'Flâneur'
July 10- September 5, 2009
Opening Reception: Thursday, July 9th 2009, 6 to 9 pm
Artist in Attendance
Opening on July 9, Galerie Tanit is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Vancouver artist, Stephen Waddell. This will be the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
Somewhere in the city, a bearded man in faded sweatshirt and jeans stands in profile, half-enfolded by the branches of a tree. In his left hand he holds a lighter which, at a glance, appears to flow into an illusory blade created by light on the tree trunk. In his right hand he holds a pipe. There is a nobility to his entanglements. “Man with Red Sash” is a photograph constructed against the light of the day, where passersby are blind to what the camera can reveal.
This exhibition, “Flâneur”, weaves its way through the various genres of photography dating back to the 80’s, both in terms of presentation and subject matter. Waddell has maintained his interest in picturing the individual lost in thought. One has to wonder whether this is, in fact, a literal description of the history of aesthetic discourse. The con-templation of the ‘beautiful’ has always been, and still is, a relatively singular and or indi-vidual pursuit. There are no set ways of depicting or observing an event, yet poetic en-gagement must be held higher than the rest.
Waddell’s figurative work possesses a particular dynamism left over from his painterly beginnings. His pictures have weight, and each figure has a place on the ground. In “Ku-Damm 225” a middle-aged woman stands at the entrance to an old cinema in Berlin. Both her body language and overall presence are hard to read in context, yet she ap-pears resolved in both. “Bathers in Spring” depicts a variation on the solitary figure motif. Here, a young woman at the beach leans against a log, arms outstretched, presiding over the mélange of bathers in her view. In “Wader” we fix our gaze on the Apollonian torso of a young man in jeans, standing in the ocean, allowing us time to contemplate what it would take to wash away the constraints of everyday life. “Man in Green Mask”, “Snail Seller” and “Woman at Table” quickly whisk us back to those figures in life for whom the city is the most natural of environments, ready for use in any theatrical or mercantile fashion.
Several pictures are reminders of the decelerated times that create absorptive behavior. “Preacher”, and “ Grunewaldturm” depict waiting, while “ Picture Gallery” reveals a mu-seum security guard taking time out to read. In “Gore Avenue Twilight” a seated young woman waits for someone or something, surrounded by her belongings and the deepen-ing colours of dusk.
Charles Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a stroller of city streets, one who is both a cool observer of that which unfolds around him and yet is also a passionate participant. In Waddell’s case the approach of the flâneur lends itself perfectly to the medium of street photography. Waddell most often stumbles upon his subjects by chance. His pictures preserve a sense of distance and dignity, allowing us to observe his subjects at work or at play or at rest. At the same time, aided by the skillful employment of colour and composition, we are led to situate these figures in a greater scheme of things. They are given formal strength, sensuality and—perhaps most importantly of all—significance.
Stephen Waddell as born in Vancouver, Canada in 1968 and received his M.F.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1994. He has exhibited in galleries and institutions including Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver and Toronto; The Vancouver Art Gallery, Espai d’art contemporani de Castelló in Castello; Kunstforum Baloise in Basel and C/O Berlin. Waddell’s works are today part of the Armand Hammer Collection in Los Angeles, as well as the permanent collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery and The National Gal-lery of Canada in Ottawa.
Alexandra Oliver is a poet and art writer based in Toronto and Vancouver. Her first book Where the English Housewife Shines was published in 2007 by Tin Press London.