Earth, Wind & Fire
Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Reuben Paterson’s latest sculptures and paintings mark a significant leap from the familiarity of his glitter paintings into the 3-dimensional space of sculpture as exploration into the true potentials of his trademark of glitter and diamond dust. They acknowledge the intrinsic and stereotypical values of these materials through a range of cultural and historical readings. In this latest body of work, Paterson draws on historical crossover – taking the titles for his sculptures from famous works of art from throughout antiquity including the Italian Renaissance, and for his paintings, from the greatest hits of disco’s hero band – Earth, Wind & Fire.
Naming the show Earth, Wind & Fire refers to the glittered decadence of disco culture through new, circular, monochrome paintings that remind the viewer of mirror balls that use light to animate and open up painting’s flat pictorial plane. These tondo paintings ultimately challenge the assumptions we make of a fixed image. The colours of these monochromes are themselves Earthly – the brown of Earth, the gold of Earth’s treasure, the green of nature and the black of the cosmos. The sparkle of glitter in the depths of a black monochromatic surface becomes the stars of this cosmos, navigating us into something deeper. What interests Paterson here is that glitter, colour and his glittered animal sculptures all come loaded with stereotype, history and emotion, and yet they all need, and here receive, a new chance to breath again and herald a contemplative contemporary voice.
Reuben Paterson’s eclectic influences animate his painting and also parody notions of the Pacific as an exotic paradise. His works draw on inherited histories, presenting them with the sheen and lustre of glitter and pattern that is influenced as much by Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes of 1980 as by the traditional iconography of indigenous New Zealand. Drawing on themes of revelry, reverie and the sacred, Paterson uses shimmering materials to engage with what is known as whakapapa – the layers of genealogy, myth and knowledge that are central to Maori consciousness, reinvigorating and extending Maori expression and producing works that link to
memories of our recent and ancient pasts; memories that are visceral, tangible and intangible.