In 2003, the outrageous nature of Reuben Paterson’s untitled Gow Langsford exhibition leapt off the wall and smacked me in the face.
Provocatively titled canvases ‘painted’ in glitter surrounded me, the paisley and floral patterns as well as kitsch palm trees yelled for attention. I was spellbound, drawn like a magpie to a shiny object, hypnotized by the light’s movement across the glitzy surfaces, drawn into the alternative worlds of artist-provocateur Reuben Paterson.
Today, Reuben has become an artist who is impossible to ignore. A proponent of the shiniest of media, his optically dazzling glitter paintings are now included in most of Australasia’s public collections. Paterson’s rapid fire career is as sparkling as his canvases. Born in 1973, he graduated from Auckland University’s prestigious Elam School of Fine Arts in 1997 and shortly thereafter became the youngest recipient ever of the international Moet et Chandon Art Fellowship.
In 1998, on his first ever ‘OE’ (overseas experience), Paterson journeyed to the Moet Chateau in Arvize, spending two months camped out in the designer fashion shows of Paris, studying fabric technique and structure amongst the collections of Helmut Lang, Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcon and Collette Dinnigan. Two years working in England followed before Reuben eventually returned home. In 2000, he was selected to participate in the Festival of Pacific Arts, Médiathèque du centre culturel, Tjibaou, Noumea, and the artist responded with what became his ‘breakout’ work, The Wharenui that Dad Built (Private collection, New Zealand).
A tribute to his late father Lewis, Reuben’s work re-presented Maori kowhaiwhai patterns in glitter dust, challenged conventional perceptions of Maori contemporary culture and established his trademark glitter technique. This immediately caught the attention of Gallerist Rhoda Fowler. The painting was returned to Auckland and shown by Te Tuhi in 2001.
In 2002, Auckland art dealers Gow Langsford included Reuben in a gallery group show. His first solo exhibition followed the next year, accompanied by a dazzling opening. Solo exhibitions with Gow Langsford continued in 2005, Narcissus, and in 2007, Reverie, as well as a solo show with the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane 2005/6), He Aha te Mea Nui – What is the Greatest Thing? This exhibition is notable for the painting/installation acquired by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery entitled When the Sun Rises and the Shadows flee. Part retro-billboard and part South Pacific fantasy, this epic work (3500 X 7300mm) based on a Rarotongan Beach scene, appears at first as a left over memory of the artist from a visit to the capital Island of the Cook Islands in 2001.
Black silhouetted palm trees and a deep blue/black sea and beach scape are depicted in the work. Light flares off a reef of tinsel on the floor and large shimmering glitter discs on the painting are activated and ripple in the breeze of an electric fan. The viewer is drawn into a light between spaces, the interaction of sublime yet savage inevitability proving a spellbinding experience – leading a young viewer to ask ‘Mum, is that what heaven looks like’?
Following the death of his father in 2000 and the artist’s subsequent visit to Rarotonga in 2001; ‘Heaven’ is very much a subject matter of this work, the artist himself stating that his construct reveals a revamped Avaiki – the illusory promise of an ultimate destination, his manipulation of the 17th and 18th century European obsession with the Pacific ‘garden of Eden fantasy’ a clever consequence.
For such a vital career, much has already been written of Reuben’s work. The painter himself wants to mystify you with details of Maori genealogy (Whakapapa), personal family history, sexual politics, his relationships and friends, native land rights, fabric, fashion and wall paper design. Like a spiritually charged textile, they weave a cultural pattern that underscores the fundamental agenda of his artwork.
The surfaces of Reuben’s art works are mesmerizing, a veritable kaleidoscopic landscape. Invented in 1815 by Sir David Brewster, the Kaleidoscope became a mass European phenomenon, entire societies captivated by the sensory adventures it presented, essentially delivering a brand new view of the world. To describe an event or phenomenon as kaleidoscopic evoked a sense of perpetual transformation.
Given the continually shifting focus of visual culture within the late nineteenth century this is hardly surprising. Also consider the era of ‘Post-Post Modern/Contemporary Art Practice’ we find ourselves immersed in today and Reuben’s commentary is compelling. Further, reflect on the shockingly laborious construct of his paintings. As glitter is meticulously arranged to achieve his desired outcome, a sharp contrast is drawn to ‘conceptual contemporary’, where the artist rarely lays a hand on the actual, ‘art piece’ itself, a role substituted by ‘technicians’.
The experience of looking through a kaleidoscope is described as a process of being opened up to a world of different cultural sensations, a fundamental premise of Reuben Paterson which comes into startling focus when viewing the monumental work Whakapapa (get down upon your knees) a monolithic 8 metre square glitter installation of 16 individual paintings produced for the 6th Asia/Pacific Triennial (APT), Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2009/10).
Stepping aside from the painting’s sexual reference, the installation presents a synopsis of the artists work to date, which will soon be acknowledged as a significant totem pole, marking the emergence of considerable new influence. Reuben stated at the time, ‘APT is where locality and culture are inherent, rather than a curatorial consignment.’
Each painting contains a different combination of koru, kowhaiwhai and floral designs, marked out in his trademark medium of glitter and paint. However, delve a bit deeper and the experience is perhaps akin to that of fusing theories of Gordon Walters and Damien Hirst, piling them onto a semi trailer and having it run over you at high speed.
Immediately following the production of this work, Reuben geared up for his 4th solo show with Gow Langsford. Dear Beauty, Dear Beast. The underlying theme of the exhibition dealt with the ugly yet legally successful defense theory, the ‘provocation debate’, where women are raped and gay men bashed after having allegedly provoked heterosexual men.
Ferocious yet beautiful faces of wild cats (Tiger, Panther and Lions) are depicted in superb realism, the artist attaining an astonishing level of technique and presentation in his trademark media. The ‘beasts’ were then partnered with ‘softer’ canvases of flowers and kaleidoscope patterns and presented in a diptych format. No longer dominated by his traditional influences, Paterson’s works took on a fierce new social dimension, angry, beautiful and unapologetic. Works from this series were included in the 2010 Biennale of Sydney.
In July 2010, a return to the ‘paradise’ of the Cook Islands beckoned and Reuben took up the artist’s residency offered by BCA Gallery, Rarotonga. For the artist, it seemed inevitable that he return to the Cook Islands. Immersing himself in his tropical locale, he produced 16 new works including a series of experimental posters activated by black light. The cultural significance of the Island – its spiritual association with New Zealand was fascinating to Paterson; the exhibition’s major series of works in part referenced the legendary migratory voyage of the seven canoes from Rarotonga to New Zealand. Given the significance of his 2005 work based on Rarotonga, and the title of his BCA residency show, a strong sense of renewal was also on offer for the artist. The exhibition, Aere E Akamotu – Start to Finish opened September 13th at BCA Gallery.
Reuben Paterson has noted, ‘The act of looking twice has always inspired and intrigued me; it’s the fact of seeing, and of not being able to see, of knowing, and of yet to learn, of being drawn into a picture to discover multiple layers of visual truths, those images that are obvious, and those that are hidden.’ Much like looking through a Kaleidoscope. Ben Bergman.
Reuben Paterson, b. 1973, Auckland.
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Paige Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Milford Galleries Queenstown, New Zealand
Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Australia
Selective Solo Shows:
- Black Matters II, Gow Langsford Gallery, 20 Sept – 14 Oct, Auckland.
- Black Matters, 25 March – 19 April, Milford Gallery, Dunedin.
- Worlds of Wearable Arts, Wellington, New Zealand.
- September 13 – October 7, Said the Hibiscus, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand,
- September 13 – October 7 Manukau City, Ronwood Ave Car Park with Lonnie Hutchinson; Day/Night, Me Rongo,Walk in Rainbows, Permanent Public Art work opened August 11.
- Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Australia, The Night Flowers, 4 – 28 August.
- Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, New Zealand -The End, ongoing New Plymouth, Brougham House Foyer Mural, permanent, May 10 – .
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, The Aroma of Black (Part III), December 8 – January 27, 2016.
- Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, The Aroma of Black (Part II), September 29 – October 23.
- Calder and Lawson Gallery, Academy of Performing Arts, The University of Waikato, Tougher Than Diamonds, August 10 – October 2.
- Milford Galleries Queenstown, New Zealand, The Aroma of Black, April 5 – 29.
- Corbans Estate Arts Centre, Seasoned Pass, March 6 – April 12.
- ANZ GAYtm, Ponsonby Road, Auckland, New Zealand, February 1 – 29.
- Benalla Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, Thanks Darkness, December 17 – March 15, 2015.
- Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand, The Golden Promise, Permanent sculpture celebrating the 50th Heritage Jubilee Year
Hastings City Art Gallery, New Zealand, At the Edge of a Mirror, May 3 – July 27.
- Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand, In the Company of Animals, April 12 – May 7.
Newmarket Rail Mural Commission, Andale, Andale, Opened February 28
The Golden Bearing at the Rhododendron Dell for TSB Festival of Lights, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, February 8 – July 27.
- Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Australia, Thanks Darkness, October 17 – November.
- Nellie Castan Gallery, Earth, Wind and Fire, August 29 -
Vibrant Laneways, Brisbane, Australia, Seek to Find to Yield, April 21, 2013 – March 2014 .
- Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, March 21 – April 24.
- Bartley + Company, Meinong’s Jungle, January 29 – 23 February.
- Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, Pleasure Seekers, September 20 – October 13.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Twice Upon a Time, September 5 – 29 .
- Peloton Gallery, Sydney, Australia, Bottled Lightning, July 19 – August 12
Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand, House of Rainbow, March 31 – April 25.
- Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Bottled Lightning, January 20 – March 3.
- The Edge, Aotea Centre, Auckland, New Zealand, Be Tender, October 17 – November 25.
- Auckland City Art Gallery, Gazillion Swirl, September 3, 2011 – September 3, 2012.
Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, FLOW, April 14 – May 7
WORLD Store, Auckland, New Zealand, Muscles and Ice Cream, In store installation and capsule collection, March 18 – April 1 .
- Te Manawa, Palmerston North, New Zealand, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, March 12 – May 22.
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, March 19 – July 10.
- BCA Gallery, Rarotonga, Aere e Akamotu, September 6 – 27 .
- Tauranga Art Gallery, New Zealand, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, July 17 – October 3.
- Tauranga Art Gallery, New Zealand, Whakapapa: get down upon your knees, June 12 – October 24.
- Milford Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand, The Water Between Us, April 28 – May 23 .
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Dear Beauty, Dear Beast, February 23 – March 20
- Milford Galleries, Dunedin, The Painter’s Lot, May 5 – June 5.
- Milford Galleries, Queenstown, Peep Show, October 16 – November 10.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Reverie, September 18 – October 16.
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand, When the Sun Rises and the Shadows Flee, April 28 – November 11.
- 64zero3 Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, February 7 – March 4
- Wellington City Gallery, New Zealand, Square2, September 25 – October 23 .
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand, He Aha te Mea Nui? What is the Greatest thing? June 10 – August 13.
- Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, He Aha te Mea Nui? What is the Greatest thing? December 10 – January 28 .
Ikaria, Greece, The Art Cafe, Permanent Art Installation
Gow Langsford Gallery Auckland, New Zealand, Narcissus, April 12 – May 7.
- Christchurch Biennial Art and Industry, Christchurch, New Zealand, Whakatata mai: do you see what I see?, September 1 – November 30.
- Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand, The Customs of Tripping, August 7 – 26 .
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia, February 7 – March 4
- New Zealand Fashion Week in collaboration, with WORLD October 20
- Parliament Buildings Foreign Affairs Building, The Beehive, Wellington, August 20 – November 20
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery Window, When Paradise is not enough, June 13 – 31
- Milford Galleries, Dunedin, The Customs of Tripping, June 12 – 31 .
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, May 7 – 31.
- Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand, Cameo Project, April 17 – July 1
Selective Group Shows:
- Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday – with Tungane Broadbent, Bergman Gallery, Rarotonga.
- Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand, Op + Pop, February 6.
- Hastings City Art Gallery, New Zealand.
- The Vivian Gallery, Matakana, Auckland, New Zealand, Black Heart with Lonnie Hutchinson and Walter Foott, July 9 – August 7.
- Christchurch Art Gallery,Op + Pop, February 6 – June 19 Hastings City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Visiting Asia, April 16 – July 17
- Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand, Visiting Asia, November 14 – February 21, 2016.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Spring Catalogue, September 16 – October 10.
- Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland University, New Zealand, Camouflage, August 7 – September 26
- Musee de la Civilisation, Quebec City, Canada, E Tu Ake, November 21, 2012 – September 8.
- Hawkes Bay Museum, New Zealand, Architecture of the Heart, September 21 – March 2, 2014.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, New Works, July 31 – August 31.
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, Contemporary Pacific and Asian Art, June 1.
- Rotorua Museum, New Zealand, Flow Riders, April 20 – September 8
- Museo Nacional las Culturas, Mexico City, E Tu Ake, April 3 – July 26.
- The University of Waikato, New Zealand, Koru Tuputupu: Redefining Kowhaiwhai, November 5 – December 15.
- Musee du quai Branly, Paris, France, E Tu Ake, October 4, 2011 – January 22, 2012.
- Wellington City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Oceania, August 6 – November 6
October Gallery, London, UK, CURRENT, June 27 – July 16.
- Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, Collecting Contemporary, June 9, 2011 – June
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, Manstyle, March 11 – November 27.
- Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, E Tu Ake, April 9 – June 26
Plug In, Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada, Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, January 20 – May 27
- Milford Gallery, Dunedin, Small Works, September 11 – October 6.
- Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland, Under, August 6 – October 3 1.
- 17th Biennial of Sydney, The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, May 12 – August 1.
- Wairoa Maori Film Festival, Kahungunu Marae, Wairoa, June 4.
- Hastings City Art Gallery, Putiputi: The Flower in Contemporary New Zealand Art, July 10 – September 26
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Beloved, December 12 – October 30, 2010.
- Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, Asia Pacific Triennial, December 5, 2009 – April 10, 2010.
- Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand, Blue Planet, November 21, 2009 – November 7, 2010.
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, Together Alone: Australian and New Zealand Fashion, October 1, 2009 – April 18, 2010.
- Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua, September 8 – October 4.
- Webbs Auction House, Move Me, April 27 – May 4.
- Whakatane District Museum and Gallery, Reference Section, April 18 – May 24.
- Govett – Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand, Am I Scared, Boy (eh): collection works from then and now, April 4 – May 31.
- Te Manawa Museum, New Zealand, Are you Right not to like Modern Art? December 6, 2008 – March 15, 2009.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Spring Catalogue Exhibition, September 19 – October 10.
- Te Manawa Museum, New Zealand, Dispelling the Myth: a look at changing attitudes towards Death, September 20 – December 7.
- Govett Brewster, New Plymouth, New Zealand, Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, June 7 – August 31.
- Galerie der Stadt Sindelfingen, Maichingen, Germany Dateline: Art from the Pacific, April 20 – June 22.
- Stadtgalerie, Kiel, Germany, Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, January 26 – March 24
- Cambridge University of Anthropology and Archaeology, Cambridge England: Pasifika Styles, April 16, 2006 – February 28, 2008.
- Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, Germany: Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, September 7 – October 21.
- 64zero3 Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, Hot, November 28 – January 28.
- Christchurch City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Of Deities and Mortals, 16 November 2007 – 6 February 2008.
- Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, Australia, News from Islands, August 31 – November 31
- Centro de Arte Caja De Burgos, Burgos, Spain, nEUclear Reactions, September 14 – December 20.
- Whangarei Art Museum, Whangarei, New Zealand, Te Hue Ipu, June 19 – August 6
- Hawkes Bay Exhibition Centre, New Zealand, Parallel Practices, July 16 – September 18.
- Pataka, Porirua, New Zealand, The Walters Show, September 15 – November 20.
- Prague Biennial, Czech Republic, nEUclear Reactions, June 14 – September 11.
- Waikato Museum, Hamilton, New Zealand, Tau Ana, April 1 – July 15.
- Sergeant Art Gallery, Wanganui, New Zealand, YMCA, December 1 – February 20.
- Palau Islands: 9th Pacific Biennial, July 22 – 31.
- Hazlehurst Gallery, Sydney, Australia, “Wish You Were Here”, March 29 – June 1.
- Pataka Gallery, Porirua, New Zealand, Flowerpower, February 10 – April 16.
Artspace Auckland, New Zealand, Ike and thanks for all the Ika, February 17 – March 30.
- Wanganui Art Museum, New Zealand, Tau Ana, December 21 – February 15.
- Cook Islands National Museum, Iki and thanks for all the Ika, September – November
Lithuanian Siuolaikinio Meno Center, Lithuania, Mäori in Lithuania, June 25 – August 24.
- Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand, Contemporary Perspective in Portraiture, June 7 – July 20.
- Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand, Taiaawhio: Te Tiimatanga, June 2002 – February 23, 2003.
- Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Flaunt – Art, Fashion, and Culture, October 4, 2003 – February 8, 2004
- Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Contemporary Acquisitions, September 14 – December 20.
- Pataka Gallery, Porirua, New Zealand, The Koru and Kowhaiwhai, Contemporary Renaissance of Kowhaiwhai Painting, October 1- January 31.
- Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Group Show: Dale Frank, Richard Thompson, Paul Hartigan, Reuben Paterson, January 29- February 23.
- Wellington City Art Gallery and Pataka Gallery, New Zealand, Techno Mäori, September 28 – December 2.
- Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Purangiaho, September 15 – November 30.
- Te Wa, Wanganui, New Zealand, Mana Tangata, September 1 – 30
- Tijibaou Arts and Cultural Centre, Noumea, New Caledonia, The 8th Festival of Pacific Arts Biennale d’Art Contemporian, October 25, 2000 – February 28, 2001.
- Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Peter Hills, The Art Fair Murders, March 13 – May 20.
- Christopher Moore Gallery, New Zealand, Step on it, February 12 – March 10.
- 23A Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, Quartet: Four to the Fore, May 16 – June 1 1.
- George Fraser Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand: Salute Pierre ET Gilles, August 3 – September 12.
- Aigantighe Art Gallery, Timaru District Council, NZ
- Auckland City Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, NZ
- Auckland University Collection, NZ
- Christchurch City Art Gallery, Christchurch, NZ
- The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, NZ
Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
- Govett–Brewster, New Plymouth, New Zealand
- James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland, New Zealand
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
- National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
- PWC Collection, New Zealand
- Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
- Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
- Sky City Casino Penthouse, Auckland, New Zealand
- University of Waikato, Hamilton
- 2006 International Studio Curatorial Programme, Manhattan, New York.
Development Prize in the 2005 James Wallace Art Awards.
- 2005 Finalist, Castteleon City Arts Council Arts Prize, Castelleon, Spain.
- 1997 Recipient of the Moet et Chandon Arts Fellow, ship, Avize, France.
- 2014 Asia New Zealand Foundation artist residency at Goyang Art Studio, South Korea.
- 2013 Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand.
- 2010 BCA Gallery, Rarotonga.
- 2006 International Studio Curatorial Program, Manhattan, New York.
- 2005 Ikaria, Greece, Residency to create a permanent installation at ‘The Art Café’, Kampos.
- 2004 Punatapu Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand.