Emerging into the light

Campbell Patterson in the Hocken Library gallery space where his Frances Hodgkins Fellowship exhibition will hang. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Campbell Patterson in the Hocken Library gallery space where his Frances Hodgkins Fellowship exhibition will hang. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Having closeted himself away in a studio for the past year, Frances Hodgkins Fellow Campbell Patterson is emerging a little lost and contemplative, finds Rebecca Fox.

Campbell Patterson has spent most of the past week in bed, sleeping and watching television.

toot floor, 2017, by Campbell Patterson. Photo: The Artist and Michael Lett Gallery
toot floor, 2017, by Campbell Patterson. Photo: The Artist and Michael Lett Gallery
It is his way of decompressing from a year of intensive creativity as the Frances Hodgkins Fellow.

''I'm going through post-residency depression, staying in bed all day.

''I'm in a very nostalgic mood, very sentimental, but I'm in a much better place with my practice.''

Having worked nearly full-time at Auckland Library for nine years, the fellowship was a rare opportunity for Patterson to fully explore his practice full-time.

''It's a completely different world; before [when I did residencies] I always took leave.''

He took that to heart, spending most of his time in the studio creating, even when communicating with his partner in Singapore at odd times of the day and night.

''I lived quite an isolated anti-social existence.''

It enabled him to produce work for three exhibitions - ''Call Sick'' for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in June and another in Auckland in September and then this month's ''toot floor'' at the Hocken Library.

''toot floor'' - its name inspired by a comment a flatmate made about his flat's toilet floor after the toilet leaked - brings together some work he did right at the start of his residency and worked on ''ever so slightly'' during the year, and pieces created since September.

A major focus for the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts graduate (2006) has been the writing of a book - ''a description of a narrative focusing on everyday movements'' - and the subsequent editing required to get it to its finished state.

He managed to edit 8000 words from the 20,000 he had written.

''It was a bit of a chiselling job. The text editing was a huge part of the daily grind.''

The long-distance relationship led to him being up at night and not sleeping much.

''They were the darkest and deepest part of the fellowship, but I liked that I got so much done. I could do printing when I was on the phone; the laborious stuff, cutting out lino blocks.''

The fellowship has influenced his work, as has how he worked for the year.

He did a lot more work on paper as he is aware that having left Auckland and his job he now has no fixed abode or job, so paper is more portable.

''I can keep it in folders. It's heartbreaking to destroy things.''

This year he also worked in older mediums, such as VHS, film, photocopying and lino printing.

''It was keeping the work as simple as possible. Technology is tedious. So this year I used new mediums, ways of working.''

The lino prints are ''quite simple'' for him to work on.

''It's an expressive medium without a lot of effort. You don't have a huge amount of control compared to a screen print.''

Patterson, who was born in Portsmouth, England, says he prefers people to not know what they are looking at; instead to think about it or feel something as a result.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is videos he took while in Singapore of the sounds of air conditioning in toilets.

''I like the sound. The way one sound connects to another sound, how they relate to each other.''

It required a lot of editing to remove the sounds of people in the toilets.

''There's quite a bit of work that goes into two moments of silence in a Singapore bathroom.''

He also took a lot of photographs, including of the rubbish that had built up in his studio, which could make an appearance in his latest exhibition.

Only a week out from the end of the fellowship and about to start hanging his latest exhibition, Patterson says he still feels too close to the work to really get a sense of it.

''It all seems the same.''

Attempting to describe its theme, he could only say he wanted to describe an atmosphere, to piece together the minuscule.

''My main inspiration was the music I was playing in my studio. It was a lot of depressing black metal. It was ambient, emotional but quite cold.

''The way I see this music is what I want to do in forming this art.''

His partner moved to Dunedin in December and they plan to do farm work for a few months while he looks for other residency opportunities.

''It has been pretty full-on. I've put a lot of pressure on myself to be consistently working.

''Now I need to take some time to think about it, what I've not finished, what I've rushed. I'm looking forward to working my body a wee bit. It's liberating.

''I'm excited. I've never been on a farm before.''


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