Bottled Lightning continues Reuben Paterson’s lively exploration of materials, which started with glitter-on-canvas depictions of kowhaiwhai and fabric designs, and diversified into a range of media including sequins, foil, diamond dust, shoes, gourds, video and installation. Guiding this is Paterson’s ongoing conceptual investigation into aspects of time and energy through the properties of light, which reflects the power of history, memory, whakapapa, spirituality and place. His work combines the celebration of the future with a melancholic consideration of the present as it slips into the past – like the faded glory of a much-anticipated party, gleefully recaptured in morning-after stories.
Kinetic energy is a key feature in Paterson’s work, whether it is the optical effects of abstract painting, the spiritually charged dance of light and dark on reflective surfaces, or the kaleidoscopic distortions of his interactive and digital works. His fluctuating surfaces deny a fixed response and seduce us into repeated looking, to reconsider our position and assumptions. Whether crumpled on the floor or contained on a canvas like bottled lightning, they challenge our perception and control of the present as a state of flow, an analogy for capturing the elusive creative process as it shifts between boredom and inspiration. They remind us of the power that ripples beneath the land we stand on, with its ever-changing layers of history.
Bottled Lightning is curated by Andrew Clifford and is distilled from the survey show organised earlier this year by The University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery.