Two major new commissions by British artist Simon Patterson, shown in the context of a selected career survey of definitive works, will be on view at The Fruitmarket Gallery from 26 February 2005. The artist’s first solo presentation in Scotland features 13 works encompassing drawing, film, lithography, painting and sculpture. It offers the opportunity to revisit key works The Great Bear, and General Assembly, which led to Patterson’s 1996 Turner Prize nomination and cemented his reputation as one of the most consistently inventive amongst the London-based ‘Young British Artist’ generation of the mid-1990s.
Continuing until 1 May, the exhibition explores Patterson’s interest in the collision and recasting of established information systems of classification, documentation, description and belief in order to challenge widely-accepted or universal understandings and confound the foundations on which human knowledge is built.
Sources of ordered information such as maps, diagrams, keyboards, the periodic table and electric circuit diagrams are Patterson’s raw materials. He creates his own quasi-systems by undermining the authority of the original source, infiltrating these systems of navigation with replacement rogue data or material of his choosing (his ‘lists’ range from Hollywood stars to English kings and queens and beyond) to amusing and unnerving effect. At the point of encounter with the incongruity, the viewer is compelled to question the origin, use, meaning and the essential truth of ‘information’.
Two new works, a film and a wall drawing, have been commissioned. They will be shown alongside existing works which both made the artist’s name and significantly developed his practice,
The artist’s best-known work is The Great Bear, 1992, a lithograph on paper in which Patterson replaces the routes on the London Underground map with lists of names including engineers, explorers, footballers, film actors, Italian artists, musicians, planets, philosophers and saints. The result is a dramatic – and funny – double take. It is joined by other early work – the name paintings Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and the classic drawing The Last Supper Arranged According to the Sweeper Formation (Jesus Christ in Goal), 1990.
But the work that dominates the exhibition, taking up the entire top floor of The Fruitmarket Gallery is the artist’s first major sculptural work, General Assembly, a large-scale installation that positions the viewer within a satirical minefield of politics, sport and language.
Originally commissioned in 1994 by the Chisenhale Gallery in London, and taking its initial inspiration from a football match organised between the UN peace keeping force and the remnants of the national football team in Sarajevo in March 1994, the work takes the form of an arena, bordered by structures reminiscent of stadium seating and typewriter keys. Some are laid out in an exact replica of a QWERTY typewriter keyboard, while others, running round the space, spell out the sentence ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’. Some of the ‘seats’ appear to be reserved for past Directors General of the United Nations, and for nations in the UN Security Council, amongst which some rather dubious countries, their origins in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels rather than any contemporary atlas, seem to have got mixed up.
Also included is the film Escape Routine, created for the 2002 Sydney Biennale. In it, Patterson distorts the notion of ritualised public procedure, hi-jacking airline safety demonstrations with the tricks of master escape artist Harry Houdini.
Of the development of his work, Patterson says ‘(in early work) I wanted to control the meanings and association, so that it would be completely clear what my intention was. But somewhere along the way, I forgot what that was, and I realised that non-sequiturs are a way in for people.’
In keeping with Patterson’s fascination with mirroring and disjunction, the exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery forms one half of a temporally and spatially separated whole: a complementary and overlapping exhibition of work by Simon Patterson will be shown at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham from 8 June to 17 July, 2005.
The exhibition, which continues until Sunday 1 May 2005, benefits from major funding from the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund and The Foyle Foundation with support from The Elephant Trust.
Time Piece, 2005
The Fruitmarket Gallery and