PJ Paterson's new work readdresses the concept of his earlier Holy Roman Empire series, centring on the notion of obsolescence and decay in contemporary society. Consisting of a series of digitally altered photographic images, this new work imagines the end-point of our consumerism; once-beautiful landscapes covered with wrecked cars and abandoned bicycles as far as the eye can see.
The series, ironically titled Glory, highlights society’s wilful ignorance of the price of rapid growth and unbridled consumption. Rather than a futuristic utopia, Paterson imagines a mechanical wasteland of ruined buildings and vehicles, issuing a clear warning about the consequences of the drive of capitalism.
Paterson sets this scene of mechanical carnage against a typical foreboding New Zealand landscape, with dense black clouds mirroring the representation of manmade destruction with the suggestion of Nature's retribution. This use of pathetic fallacy reinforces the gravity of Paterson's concerns, suggesting a devastating cycle of cause and effect.
In one work, two parallel rows of women stretch towards a derelict building, a representation of the decay of the obsolete at the edges of a society which always insists on having the newest, biggest, best. The image, sepia-toned and surreal, contrasts the ceremonial arrangement in the foreground with the utter desolation in the background, suggesting that even the most celebrated objects of our current society will one day fall to ruin, only for the cycle to begin again.
As though to underscore this cyclical nature, Paterson's photographs are classically composed, symmetrical and compositionally simple. This ironic disjuncture compounds the sense of inevitability and recursion, while also giving the images an uncomfortably appealing aesthetic. Paterson shows that beauty can be found in the decay, though never forgets his finer moral message.
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