Push and Pull: The Opposing Forces of Karen Gunderson and Alex Rennie at Waterhouse & Dodd

At first glance, a two-person show of artists Karen Gunderson and Alex Rennie seems an unlikely pairing. While Gunderson’s paintings of seascapes and mountains are organic and monochromatic, Rennie’s are architectural and fabricated—his chosen subject matter of timber naturally lends itself to lines, which are his focus in this series of work. Examination of their exhibition, “Alex Rennie & Karen Gunderson” at Waterhouse & Dodd in London, however, illuminates a unique and compelling similarity between the artists’ works and their ability to literally push and pull reactions out of their viewers.

Rennie’s paintings are inspired by the wooden beams used in the creation of  buildings and urban structures. His paintings utilize perspective to such an extent that certain visual elements challenge the flat medium in which they are created and appear to jump out of the canvas. The result is a three-dimensional optical illusion, where the wooden beams protrude forward and seem to enter the space of the viewer. In the same way that Rennie’s paintings jut out at viewers, Gunderson’s paintings draw them in. Instead of dodging wooden beams as they punch across the boundary of the picture plane, Gunderson’s paintings offer soft waves and mountain peaks through which one can delve into the work, calmly floating and ascending into her paintings.

The particular combination of these two artists, who engage viewers through optics and perspective, results in an unexpectedly cohesive exhibition. Although Gunderson and Rennie differ in terms of style and technique, they are similar in thought-provoking ways; they activate feelings of depth on flat surfaces within a traditional gallery space, and elicit dynamic physical reactions in their viewers.

Sophia Alexandrov

Alex Rennie & Karen Gunderson” is on view at Waterhouse & Dodd, London, July 8th–31st, 2014.

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