PJ Paterson’s work is centred on the politics of progress, offering a critique of the power structures and technologies that define contemporary life. Incorporating painting, photography and printmaking as well as a range of new media practices, Paterson’s works are united by an effort to expose holes in the narratives of progress that describe contemporary society.
Symmetry, Repetition & Noise continues Paterson’s concern the notion of decay, destruction and obsolescence. Manipulated digital photography is employed to reframe the familiar and imagine an end-point for our society of excess, brutally deconstructing modern myths such as the success of capitalism and consumerism. Using original images from his own photographs, Paterson indentifies seemingly innocuous scenes – an apartment block or factory, a junkyard or abandoned piece of machinery – and constructs a new reality through the time-consuming process of digital manipulation.
The resulting works have a strange familiarity; they are drawn from this world and could exist somewhere, despite presenting impossibly infinite vistas of waste and menacingly-large industrial structures. They also posses a startling beauty, as the artist employs classical, symmetrical compositions; an ironic disjuncture which gives images an appealing aesthetic.
Patersoncompares the creation of these manipulated realities to the act of storytelling: “When I make a work it’s as if I’m telling a story; I will exaggerate small details to make the story better. So these aren’t “lies;” I’m not showing completely made-up places. They are real places that I’ve embellished to tell a more compelling story.”
Locations from New Zealand and overseas are re-imagined to provide the starting point for Paterson’s vistas of infinite waste, with the familiar offering context to understand the fictional. In works such as The Valley, scenes of mechanical carnage are set against typically foreboding New Zealand landscapes, with dense black clouds generating a sense of moody tension. Elsewhere, such as in Whitewater, blue skies and cotton-wool clouds offer a ‘shiny-shiny’ aesthetic, appearing to reference Pop art and contemporary culture. Other works, such as Berlin, draw from utilitarian architecture; in vastly increasing the scale of buildings, the artist creates structures which are both possible and disturbing, rising from urban landscapes like temples to industrialism.
Symmetry, Repetition & Noisehighlights society’s wilful ignorance of the price of rapid growth and unbridled consumption, indicating Paterson’s deep sense of social responsibility; “his willingness to confront issues so directly allows his art to become a means of radical social and political expression, a vehicle for change.” (Arron Santry, p. 114, The Artists: 21 Practitioners in New Zealand Contemporary Art c. 2011-2013, Beatnik Publishing, 2011)
View exhibition »