Hyperrealism Meets Abstraction in YBA Richard Patterson’s Pop Culture Explorations

Artsy Editorial
Dec 1, 2014 6:17PM

One of the famed and sensationalized Young British Artists (YBAs) who rose to stardom in the early 1990s, Richard Patterson explores how painting can express meaning amid the flux of popular culture. Combining various approaches to the medium, Patterson prods its boundaries, presenting photographs of his painted sculptures, using collaged canvases, and splicing abstraction with photorealism. In his fourth solo show at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery, Patterson exhibits several new works in a variety of media. 

Similar to other YBA painters, such as Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, and Gary Hume, Patterson has used formalism and technical skill to convey conceptual concerns in that medium and others, particularly photography and sculpture. In his 2013 painting Emerald Fire, Patterson rendered—with hyperreal precision—the image of a focused young woman, staring intently out of the frame. Over top of this photorealistic image, Patterson has collaged large, painterly pieces of canvas that are swiped, splashed, and smeared with oil paint. The collaged forms partially occlude the woman’s face, dissolving the controlled rendering into riots of color.

In a similar painting, Christina in Red Hat (2014), Patterson has reduced an image of a young woman in a red hat to a series of holes excised from another gestural, abstract painting. The matrix of paint over figure feels voyeuristic in contrast with the immersive and sensuous brushstrokes. This borrowing of expressionistic painting tropes is recurrent in Patterson’s work. In a 2013 interview, he explained his process saying, “I am fascinated with painters like de Kooning, Guston, Baselitz, Soutine, and others because they often tried to break with one tradition or genre in a manner that would have been unfashionable or difficult. That aspect which seems fastidious is as much about trying to do something new.” 

As such, the artist attempts to find a common vocabulary for both pop iconography and predominating modes of painting. By opposing flatness with visual depth, painterly abstraction with linear hyperrealism, wholeness against fracture, Patterson connects disparate imagery to find out where they align, and where they are fissured.

Richard Patterson” is on view at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, Nov. 15–Dec. 20, 2014.

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Artsy Editorial