House of Rainbow

House of Rainbow
Milford Galleries, Dunedin

March 31 – April 24 2012


Reuben Paterson’s “House of Rainbow” features the significant installation component of two large scale PVC panels and houses 10 paintings.


Paterson’s use of glitter makes the ordinary extraordinary. What at first may seem to be portions of fabric design or fragments of Pacific nostalgia, evolve in his hands to being images that are complex, subtle and deceptive.


This exhibition consciously refers to all his previous work but does so with a far greater certainty and confidence. He has introduced calligraphic flourishes that produce powerful sensations of the artist’s hand moving across the works. He has deepened spatial depth and introduced frontal layering into the role of surface. This plays with the viewer’s perception as well as embellishing (the contradictory) pictorial perspective.


Paterson’s paintings are in a constant state of visual flux as the chromatic qualities of glitter vary dramatically in direct response to light direction, intensity and as the viewer alters position. At first the works may seem simple but this is deceiving. Regardless of the original image source his “compare-and-contrast approach with different cultures and artistic traditions intermingling”(1) also allows (as in introduces) complex narratives (through the roles of memory assertion and image accretion). In this way the works come to have plural realities. He “pumps meaning back into patterns”(2) with such considered precision that he “organises the eyes journey”(3) as we experience “freedom of interpretation”(4) and “perpetual transformation.”(5)



“Knock on the Door” is a masterful painting with dramatic kinetic qualities of capturing and throwing light. Flat planes of colour acquire tonal depths and the powerful contrasts of black and gold build wonderful rhythms and a harmonic structure. In direct comparison “If the Key Don’t Fit” is much more organic and the resulting fluidity is equally and remarkably enthralling. “House Invaders,” the largest tondo, is in its surface flatness, exaggerated scale and koru presence “shimmeringly strange”(6) and utterly triumphant. The calligraphic gestures in “Button Down” seem suspended in time and held up by water. Yet “Button Up” develops a sculptural quality in which the modelling of shape induces powerful allusions to 3D volume.


Paterson’s technical virtuosity is everywhere seen in “House of Rainbow.” In “Trespass” he demonstrates that he can ‘bend it, shape it, anyway he wants it.’ He distorts and buckles the liquid forms, suggesting undercurrents surging from behind.


The installation aspect of this powerful exhibition is another example of Reuben Paterson’s confidence and maturity. He actively uses his own motifs, using parts, portions and scale alteration as literal devices which add conflicting dialogues and intervene in what we see and how we see the works. He divides the gallery walls into differing spaces and the role performed by the PVC panels is variously flat or architectural rather than 2D. Upon these surfaces, into the varied illusory spaces and with numerous lateral dynamics interacting behind, have been placed the ten paintings of “House of Rainbow.”


In this substantial way Reuben Paterson has built a wharenui of the exhilaratingly new and tipped his hat to all that has gone before.


Stephen Higginson


1. Rhoda Fowler, Introduction, Reuben Paterson, Bottled Lightning, The Gus Fisher Gallery, 2012 p3
2. Mark Amery, Beastly Beautiful, Dominion Post, March 3 2011
3. Reuben Paterson quoted in Dan Chappell, Diamond Dust and Ancestral Stories, Art News NZ, Spring 2011
4. Andrew Clifford, Bottled Lightning p16
5. Reuben Paterson quoted by David Broker in Bottled Lightning p16
6. Mark Amery, as above