Reuben Paterson

Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua

19 March 2011 - 17 July 2011

Reuben Paterson (Ngati Rangitihi, Tuhoe, New Zealand) will be familiar to Dunedin audiences, having exhibited here on numerous occasions over recent years. His installation When the Sun Rises and the Shadows Flee, currently on display in Beloved, is one of the most popular contemporary works in the Gallery’s collection. When the Otago Heritage Festival announced last year that the theme for this year’s event would be gold, it was quickly decided by the Gallery team that Paterson would produce an appropriately sumptuous and spectacular artwork to coincide with this occasion.     

Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua has gone through many incarnations as an installation, but this is by far the largest and most immersive articulation of it.  The scale and serenity of this final rendering is interesting because it belies the underlying handmade quality of its own production; it is formed from multiple layers of cut out and reorganised drawings that are scanned and kaleidoscoped into a digital animation software programme.  The beauty of this work is not in the labour of its construction; it is in the beguiling and awe inspiring moments – a precious experience which is seemingly so fleeting.  

As Paterson has noted in this regard:

“The act of looking twice has always inspired and intrigued me; it’s the act of seeing, and of not being able to see, of knowing, and of yet to learn, of being drawn into, and out of, to discover multiple layers of visual truths - those images that are obvious, and those that are hidden. Optical art distils these principles using them singly with force and commitment. It is the art of pure essentials that relies on total abstraction and visual confrontation. Optical painting may take various forms but its foundation is a non-objective perceptual response where simplicity is its dominant and most essential characteristic.”

Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua sees this artist using new ways to explore conceptual and aesthetic concerns, and yet the motifs, and how they are articulated, are deeply rooted in Paterson’s existing painting practice.  This digital animation installation provides a wonderfully playful and alluring ground for the artist to push and pull with our senses while continually referring to the historical lineage of these patterns.  With references to New Zealand art, in particular Maori kowhaiwhai designs and the paintings of Gordon Walters, the work also makes allusion to the journey taken by Kai Tahu to collect pounamu in the area of Lake Wakatipu.

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