You don't often get a lot of people unabashedly lauding their mothers for being elemental supporters in their creative pursuits. We paid a visit to Winnipeg residing artist, writer, poet John Patterson at his studio back late last summer and among various points of conversation were his mother’s influence at an early age to just freely make and make whatever he wanted. A pivotal part of why Patterson creates to date. Patterson shared with us some of his in-progress projects, why self-referencing seems to be a reoccurring inclination in his work, why he ran into problems as a result while in art school, and his ongoing search for squash playing partner. You can read the record of our visit below.
"The beauty of having a studio outside of school is being self-directed. It allows you to slowly make these connections between your work that you can’t do within an institution because of policies, or a fear of plagiarism, or something... I did experience that a lot when I was in school. I got in trouble for repurposing elements, even things I had created myself, because self-plagiarisation is an academic issue."
What have you been working on recently?
Lately I have been creating work influenced by the idea of lift - not necessarily measured altitude, more focused on the sensation of lifting. I just came across this study online that correlates a significantly higher suicide rate among people who live at higher elevations. It’s quite weird. It seems like there is no reason, even if they control for things like demographics (age or rates of mental illness). Regardless, it’s still higher. And I don’t think it is related to oxygen levels.
What got you interested in lift and elevation?
It is kind of a dumb conceptual pathway. Most of the time when I come up with an idea it originates out of what feels like an obvious starting point, but I think you have to work through that to get anywhere. In this case, I began thinking about lifting/rising and what effect those have emotionally or physically. It correlates a physical change with an emotional one. Like the relation to the sea level actually affecting your emotional disposition, which I find quite strange.
I don't usually make work based on an internal or personal sensation, but with lift I liked the idea that it is measurable externally but occurs internally. The sensation itself can act as an illustration of a way to sense objects within our environment.
For this series of work, I’ve been working with small (8.5" x 11") ink-jet print outs, made on a little home office printer and scanner. I start with iphone photos and stock images and 'collage' them with the scanner. It is a method of sketching my work.Working digitally lends itself to quickly making something, multiplying it and then cropping it. Then, I use that newly modified version to work on the next thing. The process is sequential.
Is this a familiar way of working for you?
It is. In comparison to the processes used in sculptural work, it's so easy. When making objects multiplication is much more laborious whereas digital copying is, essentially, instant. I find that gratifying in a certain way.
Previously you've primarily been working through sculptures…
That’s almost exclusively what I was doing in school. Partially that inclination was born out of the structure and schedule which art school allows- a demand to make art that's insular and conclusive. In school it felt uncommon (maybe even discouraged) to develop a project for anything more than one semester. Being out of school, it has been really nice to make something, take it apart, and then keep developing it.
I like how you lay out your work in the binder and on the wall. What purpose does that serve you?
It's pretty intentional but it's also very temporal. It's just the product of how I like to consume media. I rearrange and circulate how things are laid out. I have a pretty huge level of impatience for how I view my work. It is probably self-destructive.
Do you find it easier to focus on one project, develop it, and see it through without external direction?
The beauty of having a studio outside of school is being self-directed. It allows you to slowly make these connections between your work that you can’t do within an institution because of policies, or a fear of plagiarism, or something... I did experience that a lot when I was in school. I got in trouble for repurposing elements, even things I had created myself, because self-plagiarisation is an academic issue.