In his latest series of portraits, PJ Paterson casts celebrities under the gritty realism of the police mugshot, using found internet images as source imagery. Unlike most widely-distributed images of the famous, mugshots exist within the public domain – allowing Paterson to sample the images freely. Paterson’s mode of sampling sees him painstakingly reconstruct photographs using a pointillist painting technique, applying overlaid dots and squares to the reverse side of Perspex sheets.
Paterson frequently utilises popular culture as a way to expose holes in the narratives of progress that define contemporary society. In a culture where celebrities are glorified, and their public images highly moderated, these candid shots can be seen as a glimpse of truth within the complex fabrications that comprise the celebrity machine. Paterson strips away the significance of fame by naming his portraits not for their subjects but for the crimes for which they are accused – Possession, Failure to Appear.
Panem et circenses, from the phrase ‘bread and circuses’, refers to distractions supplied by government to subdue public discontent. At this time of political theatrics and public unease, Paterson alludes to the absurdity – and danger – of the diversions provided by celebrity culture.
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