Haunch of Venison
6 Haunch of Venison Yard
London W1K 5ES
By Tamsin Clark, whitehot magazine, London
Simon Patterson’s show is built around names. Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Harold Monro and Edward Thomas, each title looming in black from a white print is a paired down epitaph bearing its own tragic narrative. To mark the 90th anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s death Patterson proposes to transform the house in Ors, where the war poet spent his last days and wrote a final letter home. This dwelling still resonating with history is conceived as a ‘sanctuary from the outside world’ whose walls like leaves of a transcript will be inscribed with drafts of Owen’s poems. A single ‘name painting’ for Wilfred Owen is also displayed. The name speaks for itself, an evocative memorial in which the painting’s blank canvas might also suggest a startling parallel to the rows of white crosses in wartime cemeteries. This display sets a tone of unexpected reverence to stumble upon in a gallery lobby, purposefully or not the faint sound of an accompanying elegiac hymn transfers from space to space.
Black-List is another commemoration; a collection of matt black canvases painted with glowing white texts representing the end sequences of movie credits. The titles appear to roll along each canvas; captured just coming into focus or partially obscured in blackness. These credits are painted in a smudged glow as if to flicker with the luminescence of film projection. The names displayed here are taken from Michael Mann’s Heat and Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. This is no regular cast list but a record of entertainment industry figures blacklisted in the 1940’s and 50’s as communist sympathisers. Patterson’s line-up pays homage to Hollywood greats as well as those minor characters at the edge of the frames, all too easily written out of history. The artwork becomes an excuse to make sub-texts centre stage, to afford as much attention to Robert de Niro as the rigging gaffer.
The immense sizes of these paintings embody film screens whose blackness becomes a magical void on which to imagine the characters projected. Thankfully the black-list contains black humour too in its selection of incongruous personas such as Fat Andy, Freddy the Nose and Jimmy Two Times appearing amongst the tragic-comic monikers Bleeding Man, Barbecue Wiseguy and the Kid. The political gravitas behind these assemblages is pitched against the artist’s geeky fascination with pop-culture which disperses any didacticism. Patterson takes pleasure in evoking cultural icons and splicing narratives together even to the point of endless repetition. One might recall obsessive list-makers from Georges Perec to Douglas Gordon.
Black-list sets an arresting counterpoint between humour and tragedy. The concrete shapes of these titles rendered starkly in black and white breathe form into each name so that those obscured identities come to the fore to flicker and cast an eerie glow. The painting is a gesture of permanence; a narrative that plays on even after the spotlights have dimmed.
Tamsin Clark is a freelance art writer and curator. She has held positions at the Serpentine Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum and currently works as Exhibitions Co-ordinator for R O O M artspace in East London. Recent projects include ‘By Itself’ a series of one week, one artist, one work exhibitions and an artist book project with the painter Tom Benson. Tamsin lives and works in London.
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