13 March - 13 April 2019 Parlour Projects, Hastings By Rosheen FitzGerald
The shiny people come out in force to launch Reuben Paterson’s latest show at Parlour Projects. Wine flows and local celebs vie to rub up against his sumptuously velvet-clad shoulders. They reflect the sparkle on the walls – eight new works in Paterson’s signature glitter-encrusted acrylic.
Taking as inspiration the earth and sky, they are a study in blue – from indigo to cornflower; royal to denim to ice – the spectral thread that binds them together. But there’s no nod to Picasso here, rather a thumbed nose, because there’s no room for melancholy in their riotous array of reflected light.
On the back wall are mounted a pair of Instagram-perfect square canvases, but the charm of these pieces is that their brilliance must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. They simply cannot be done justice on paper or screen. Paterson takes the idea that painting is a study in light to the next level, dazzling the eye, reflecting and refracting in the abundance of natural light the window wall affords.
The botanical studies have an abstract, William Morris feel. They are built up by degrees, almost stencilled, like a section of a repeated pattern one might find on very expensive wallpaper or upholstery. Against the backgrounds of blues, gaudy gold, lime green and hot pink pop next to burnt sienna and tangerine.
The cloud paintings have a more muted subtlety, well, as muted as you can get when caked in iridescent shimmer. Soft edges flow into one another but as with the botanicals there’s a retro kitschiness to them. They have the sense of a captured snapshot of a much larger image, be it a vintage landscape in your nan’s good room or the vastness of the very sky itself.
The enormous, radial, mandala-like canvas that dominates one wall marries the clean lines of the florals in its forms, filled with the soft gradient of the clouds within. By virtue of scale alone it is arresting. It’s traditional kōwhaiwhai patterning is rendered in novel colours, densely sparkled.
Paterson’s schtick is binding old with new. Looking to the future with one eye on the past. Filtering the gravitas of his bi-cultural heritage through the lens of a frivolous sparkle queen. Once upon a time this felt edgy, avant garde. But Paterson has been working in this medium for pushing on fifteen years now and it shows. He exhibited down the road at Hastings City Art Gallery five years ago and his work now is mere variations on the same theme. He’s found a winning formula that sells, but seems to have forgotten that what makes inspirational art is the growth and development of the artist, the continued striving for new and better things. Strip away the eye-catching shimmer and sheen and what’s left feels tired, jaded.
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