Between Somewhere and Nowhere
The objective of representational painting, we could surmise, is to assert sufficient mastery over the medium in order to conceal its own material reality behind a curtain of illusionistic space. So convincing that veneer of realism can be, as to delight us in its unsettling powers of deception. But a different order of uncanniness can be induced when the painting deliberately pulls back that curtain, distresses the veneer, by plainly and honestly revealing its material innards, while maintaining a credible illusory dimension. Image and meaning may seem to emerge, only to collapse, like hallucinations that rise and fall, back into the murky fog of material sludge. It is within this realm of visual experience we find ourselves cut adrift in Patrick’s paintings.
Suggestions of structural form provide an important architecture in the work, both visually and metaphorically. They become reference points for our entry into, and partial orientation of the image, protruding from distended frontiers of encroaching abstraction. But their indeterminacy leaves them shrouded in mystery. They may seem domestic or industrial, functional or abandoned, large or small, familiar or unfamiliar. At times they may seem a confusing mixture of these things. Their ambiguity is a reflection of the working conditions Patrick creates for herself. Meticulously sourced from sprawling internet searches, imagery is selected for its ability to trigger uncanny memories for her. They become tantalising fragments of maps to unfindable places. Catalysts to the unknowable. It’s important the paintings derive from images she experiences in this disembodied way, rather than real places she’s physically been. The distance she’s able to maintain from the image allows her to, as she describes “enter the space in an imaginative and explorative way, as if for the first time.” That imaginative exploration is an intrinsic part of the making, in which she gives painterly shape, as well as temporal dimension to the found image. The alienation attached to that experience enables her to hold back in her description of it, to understand how to say just enough but not too much, maintaining the delicate balance between fluidity and solidity. Patrick links the significance of this process to her emigration from New Zealand to Britain as a young child, never again to return to the places she no longer fully remembers. The continuing sense of loss, dislocation and disorientation, finds expression here in her method, and is necessary for her in processing that form of trauma.
The architectural vignettes provide vague suggestions of context through which the more heavily abstracted flourishes are woven. It is within these abstractions that tensions located in the fissures between the painting’s surface and depth are so delicately balanced that we find ourselves restlessly oscillating between the image and its material scaffold. And it is the medium Patrick increasingly turns to in exploring these tensions. Rather than seeking mastery over her medium, she sees her process as a collaboration with the materials; less a battle to bring strict representational regime, than a consensual dialogue, in which the will of the paint is given agency. There is magic embedded into the unpredictability of that process. Paint will do what the paint does. And if the medium itself has some degree of creative agency, this serves to further problematise Patrick’s authorial stake in the work. These small authorial abdications all contribute to the destabilising place Patrick is compelled to inhabit when she works.
If we are to understand the word medium as ‘a state between two points’, then the medium of paint in these works is precisely that; in a persistent state of flickering between-ness. These are pictures that exist at the very brink between somewhere and nowhere. Between someone and no one.
Written by Daniel Rapley – www.danielrapley.co.uk