Diana Lynn VanderMeulen at Sky Fine Foods

How do you keep art fun when it feels so out of reach, locked behind pandemic restrictions and gallery doors? This seemingly impossible question has been answered by Shimmer of a Petal, Now a Mountain Stream, Diana Lynn VanderMeulen’s solo exhibition. Presented by Sky Fine Foods, Shimmer of a Petal is available in a buffet of delivery systems, reflective of current pandemic-related needs as well as the spirit of the exhibition. Twitch streams, the virtual gallery in ArtGate VR, Youtube videos, still images on their Instagram and website, and even glimpses through the windows at Sky Fine Foods are available to the viewer.

In the mediums of collage, painting, motion graphics, and 3D modelling tools, VanderMeulen’s artworks belong to the same semi-recognizable fantasy planet—the end result being much like studying the Earth through the lens of a funhouse carnival ride. VanderMeulen’s landscapes are proud members of the uncanny valley. Bright pink skies and lime-green mists are the norms. In colours and textures reminiscent of plastic children’s toys, flowers, plants, rocky terrain, and whimsical baubles form unexpected ecosystems.

Installation view of Shimmer of a Petal, Now a Mountain Stream, Sky Fine Foods

The video works of Shimmer of a Petal, in particular, pull the imagination and stretch Earthly limitations. Among the video displays is liquid mirror, a comfortably hypnotic bend of reality. I could stare and stare for hours at the waterscape of liquid mirror—the water a curious viscosity between Jell-O and ocean waves—captivated by the flowing liquid that creeps across the screen. The laws of physics don’t appear to apply here and it is difficult to tell exactly from what perspective the audience views the scene. Normal landscapes are familiar and predictable; the Earthly world is known to us and often represented in works of art. Refreshingly, liquid mirror sheds its predictability and opts for impossibility.

liquid mirror, HD Video loop, Edition of 10, video still

Playful, fizzy, sweet, and bright is the addictive delight of Bloom formation I. Neon spritzes of mist float around a handful of large flowers, rocks, and spheres. Dancing among the mist are tiny versions of these flowers, rocks, and spheres—shiny and appealing—so small I want to reach out and grab them to see how small they would look in my palm. One viewer on the artist’s Instagram commented, “i want to drink this pls,” and I think that is the perfect summation.

Bloom formation I, Giclee on Epson Hot Press, 22″ x 28″, Edition of 10

Collecting pearls is a particularly playful work, the objects having the smooth plastic-like appeal of children’s toys or the metallic sheen of foil balloons. The pinkish hue of the flowers, water, and sky adds joy to the atmosphere. It is an inventive landscape, yet the angle of the viewer—peering out from between weeds—is faintly familiar and grounds the fanciful scene in Earthly recognition.

collecting pearls, Giclee on Epson Hot Press, 30” x 22”, Edition of 10.

From a work with a title like day glow, I had expected a yellowy-golden sunlit surface and a bright sky, but I should have known better than to expect the familiar. The foreground of day glow is coated in a dark substance, that is somehow the texture of solid rock, flowing water, and fog. In a way, the background has that golden light I expected to find in a day glow, with a delicious peachy sunset in the sky. This is a day glow. Not our Earthly kind but this world’s.

day glow, Giclee on Epson Hot Press, 30” x 22”, Edition of 10.

It feels to me that since the start of the pandemic I’ve seen a lot of exhibitions and art about invented worlds. Un-Earthly planets, parallel universes, paradisiacal worlds, and shifting ecosystems; these examinations in contemporary art seem to crop up more and more everyday. Could I be the one imposing this viewpoint on the artworks I look at? Or are artists, motivated by a pandemic, consciously reexamining this world through invented ones? Maybe it is the whole of society, reeling from the unreckonable transformation of the globe, unable to consider any subject but this.

I would certainly include Shimmer of a Petal on my list of such imagined-worlds. Where it differs from the rest is in its lighthearted, whimsical telling of the alarming story that is embracing the unknown. Unpredictable perspectives and limitless landscapes cue our instincts to fear what we don’t know. Yet, I don’t really fear it, not here. In fact, I would love to spend a day in one of these scenes, disconnecting from my Earthly stresses and immersing myself in the new and unfamiliar sights of VanderMeulen’s world.

seaweed garden, Giclee on Epson Hot Press, 30” x 22”, Edition of 10.

Olivia Mariko Hsuen-Ferris

Images are courtesy of Sky Fine Foods

*Exhibition information: Diana Lynn VanderMeulen, 𝘚𝘩𝘪𝘮𝘮𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘗𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘭, 𝘕𝘰𝘸 𝘢 𝘔𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮, April 15 – July 15 202, Sky Fine Foods, 1867 Davenport Rd, Toronto.

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