MAstars 2010: Anthony Patterson, MA Fine Art: Contemporary Dialogues

MAstars 2010: Anthony Patterson, MA Fine Art: Contemporary Dialogues Anthony Patterson, Visual Attraction (Installation View), 2010. Mirror, wood, foam-board and tape

Anthony Shapland selects Anthony Patterson from Swansea Metropolitan University for MAstars

At first reading Anthony Patterson's work 'Visual Attraction' (2010) looks straightforward enough. Approaching the space I passed a framed picture plane that contained what appeared to be a relief sculptural assemblage made of mirror. There was a void in the centre that was fractured across angular mirrored planes. Turning the corner into a darkened room I was confronted with another mirror construction, this one was larger, lit on the interior and more sculptural. Standing at the edge I could see my image reflected back and a lighter void at the centre. As a viewer passed by the framed piece outside I realised what I was looking at: an optical trick based on a kind of simple periscope refraction of image. It enables us to literally see around corners, and each viewer's image is refracted and echoed around the interior of the structure. On first reading the work appears to present a simple equation of structure plus optical tricks, and one’s understanding is that this is a device that produces an illusion along with the brief thrill of pleasure at the prospect of being fooled. It is a staple of the artworld: Kapoor – check; Kabakov – check; check and double-check the countless instances of mirrors in contemporary art operating in this way.

The mirror doesn't lie. It confirms our place in the world, that we exist there, a reflected and separate facsimile of here. We convince ourselves that the image is as others see us, but this is impossible. As eye meets eye a unique connection between our internal dialogue and external appearance is made, and this dynamic is subjective and personal only to our selves. Our mind's ability to affect what we believe we see is huge – especially when it comes to seeing ourselves. This piece interrupts the view from one person to the other so that each interaction is multiplied across the interior surface and amplified. It demanded interaction, it involved two people looking simultaneously from either end for it to function. This was not the eye to eye of our own reflection but the telescope interaction with another space. Art needs the viewer's gaze to operate; Patterson's work requires the viewer to recognise their part in enabling it to function and to act on it.

It was after visiting the show that I started thinking about the work further and something stayed with me. The installation was accompanied by a series of maquettes, a table of carefully structured near-misses or models of how the work could have existed. Cardboard, foil and tape took the place of the mirror and wood and the sense of experimentation and possibility was palpable and exciting. Angular, awkward model-making scattered across the table in an unprecious display. These sculptures existed without the instant fairground thrill of seeing the work do its thing and were strong in their own right; without completing the illusion they hold promise and expectation and a sense that they will develop into new pieces that push the work further.

Selected by Anthony Shapland
Published August, 2010

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