New directions: Reuben Paterson - Art Collector

Issue 67, January - March 2014

This profile appeared in the New Directions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2014.

Reuben Paterson with his dog Jetson in the foyer of his apartment. Photo: Kallan MacLeod

Known primarily for his optically dazzling glitter paintings, Reuben Paterson is an artist who continues to pursue the seemingly boundless potential of his chosen medium.

Recent solo exhibitions at Gow Langsford Gallery, Martin Browne Contemporary and Nellie Castan Gallery indicate a significant departure for the Auckland based artist, firstly into three-dimensions and secondly, with the adoption of a minimalistic monochrome palette – the antithesis of his multi-coloured kaleidoscopic canvases of past years.

“I’m always intrigued by the viewing potentials of glitter and diamond dust, to break the insignificance of its stereotype (as craft, drag and child’s play) and investigate the revelry of its capacity,” says Paterson of the latest developments in his practice. “I have always been a painter, and am learning to respect sculptural space … how to resolve and edit multiple viewpoints.”

In the 2013 exhibition
Earth, Wind and Fire at Nellie Castan Gallery, Paterson disrupts fixed assumptions about materials, colour and cultural stereotypes, pairing life-size animal glitter sculptures named after Renaissance masterpieces with monochrome glitter paintings bearing song titles from disco legends, Earth, Wind and Fire.

Mona Lisa, for instance, is a seductive black panther lying in repose beneath the tondo Boogie Wonderland. The feline figure shatters immediate conventional expectations that call to mind a certain mysterious Renaissance beauty with an equally enigmatic smile. And David, far from being a heroic image of marbled masculine perfection, is in fact a large bear adorned with a lustrous coat of the same glistening brown hue as the painting which captures his gaze, Let’s Groove Tonight.

Within the gallery space the sculptures are positioned so as to interact with a single painting, thereby facilitating a dialogue between them, a discussion which addresses issues of materiality, depth, surface treatment and perception. Simultaneously they interrogate the possibilities of glitter as a legitimate medium within high art through direct references to Cinquecento and classical art history.

Thanks Darkness at Martin Browne Contemporary, saw a concentrated inquiry into Isaac Newton’s colour spectrum, resulting in monochromes of red, blue, white, yellow and purple interspersed with canvases depicting complex floral arrangements and flaunting a rainbow of hues. Informed by the science of light refraction, the works were also firmly anchored within New Zealand art history. In these works Paterson acknowledges the legacy of ‘black’ synonymous with modernist painter Ralph Hotere and the cultural and metaphorical associations of light and dark as they exist within Maori cosmology.

It is the very synthesis of kitsch and popular culture with high art and the weight of their associated ideologies that makes Paterson’s multifaceted practice so compelling. As Andrew Clifford observes in his review of
Twice Upon a Time at Gow Langsford Gallery, “Paterson asks us to look again, beyond the surface, to rethink cultural spaces and assumptions, and to consider the non-linear plurality of history”.

Motivated by the desire to expand and refine his repertoire, these departures essentially offer new ways of seeing, reading and experiencing the world and perhaps signal a new level of maturity in Paterson’s work. He says, “It’s an important investment for me, as allowing the voice of the material to expand into new areas means I can offer the material and myself more opportunity to let my practice evolve, to live.”

Shelley Jahnke

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