Gow Langsford Gallery

Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia
February 7 – March 4 2004

I should like to be buried in this dress  poised before the mirror  the lady toasts her reflection in the evening light  the dress a whim of the sublime


He hokinga whakaaro ki nga wa,  this is for all those times she escaped herself in that dress  poised before the mirror  absorbed by that lustrous fabric of  transience  the scent of stale perfume whispering


He koiringa e kore e hokia  one last dance for this one consumed in motif  liberated between the weave  shedding life in pearly rivulets  flight of fancy  resounding


Ko ta te ruahine me te puweru  the lady and the dress  Koia nei he puweru moku  Ina, tukua au ki te kopu o te whenua(l)

The introductory poem to this writing was a collaboration between Paterson and Sharon Whippy. Retro fabric patterns and elements of optical art reminded the artist of his maternal grandmother who took her own life. A certain party frock Paterson imagined she was buried in inspired the suite of paintings he made in 2003. In his Sydney exhibition in 2004 he further carried this idea through the coalescing of his parents' distinct whakapapa by utilising the Maori ascension motif poutama. In these paintings, the poutama or stairway to heaven pattern descended back to Papatuanuku and transformed into kowhaiwhai. In so doing, Paterson inscribed his whakapapa or genealogy on the work as maunga whakahirahira or as major signifier. In this manner, he not only bids his kuia a fond farewell, he knowingly combines his dual heritages because he is compelled to do so. By dedicating an extensive body of work to his kuia, he not only celebrates a matriarchal figure from his Pakeha whakapapa, he also intuitively engages and practices customary knowledge instilled by his Ngati Rangitihi iwi from Matata.
Ngahiraka Mason

1. Reuben Paterson’s childhood friend, Sharon Whippy on the occasion of the artist’s solo exhibition at Gow Langsford Gallery 6 May 2003 penned the poem I should like to be buried in this dress. It was spoken at the opening event by the author to music selected by the artist. The music was a remix version of If you leave me now by Lemon Jelly; originally released in 1976 by the rock group Chicago. Whippy is an emerging poet and is currently completing her MA in English at University of Auckland. The Maori translation was provided by Te Haurnihiata Mason.