Maureen Paley is pleased to present the second solo exhibition at the gallery by Seb Patane.
In the ground floor gallery found images and materials with historical-political references are arranged and interfered with to create two and three-dimensional works. Amongst these are pictures dating back to the early 20th century, including a vintage photograph of the artist’s grandfather and images of uniformed soldiers seen in Eastern European settings.
Upstairs, the audio/video installation Chariot, Fool, Emperor, Force depicts a part film, part staged documentation of a performance/concert by Frontier, Frontier! (Patane’s music project together with musician Giancarlo Trimarchi), which will be enacted live on the opening night of the exhibition. The title suggests a loose reference to Tarot cards, yet the piece specifically refers to writer/artist/director Alejandro Jodorowski’s writing on the subject, and his Tarot poems, a crucial inspiration for Patane that relates to an iconography of concealment and the formation of archetypal roles.
Equally important is the music composed by the band which (just as Patane’s visual work often relates to the found image) is at its core centred around meticulously arranged layers of carefully researched and collected sound samples.
Chariot, Fool, Emperor, Force head pieces: concept Seb Patane, design and realization Piers Atkinson.
CW: What is your relationship to the photographic image? You often use historic images and manipulate or obliterate them in some way, as though there’s a sense of violence towards them, that you feel compelled to partially destroy them?
SP: My initial attraction to these pictures is usually pretty visceral; what I mean is that I experience a kind of transport that is almost like a gut reaction. I suppose one could also say that there is already some kind of violence inherent in that relationship, but it’s more like my consciousness has been contaminated by that image.
Eventually, my interaction with those images is in fact an act of respect rather than subversion, but it feels like that as a reaction to that psychological violence the outcome ends up looking like a need for abstracted concealment of some sort, almost to balance out that sense of devotion towards the image. It’s a game of contradictions.
CW: Is there any parallel between how you see the use of these ‘out of control’ aspects such as the black biro effacements in the earlier drawings or the ‘censored’ marks in recent pictures with the introduction of music into the space?
SP: I guess it’s like a chain reaction. Because I often work within a very rigid framework – you know, the MDF panels, the tight spatial arrangements, the sparse feel of most of the installations – I eventually feel compelled to give things a different dynamic by introducing for instance sound, which by definition is intangible therefore volatile and more anarchic. Ironically I have ended up introducing that kind of censorship iconography you mentioned just to balance that in turn; the earlier drawings feel very organic and disordered, which coincidentally is a dynamic that seem
to address a specific relation between anarchy and the organic described in some ‘60s theories that I am reading about at the moment. But the censorship images have a sense of enclosed frustration about them… so it’s almost like a circle, starting with a very definite image that gets interfered with freely, then gets straightened out a bit… a constant shift.
CW: How does the mise-en-scène of the gallery installation relate to the drawn tableaux from Victorian theater magazines with which you have been fascinated, such as The Sketch? Is there an interest in the fictional potential offered by the space of theater? How is that grafted with your political interests?
SP: I guess it’s the potential in believing in ideas of ‘fakeness’ that I am fascinated by, a bit like theatrical or cinematic notions of ‘suspension of disbelief.’ As an artist, I try and put a lot of trust in the power of the image; my installations retain a rough if minimal theatrical aspect that leaves them vulnerable and therefore open to tougher inspection. In a similar way, we can nowadays look at those aged images and interact with a contemporary knowledge that will challenge, in good and bad ways, the importance and validity of such images.
I like to think that fictional narrative can be a very powerful tool indeed, as it has the potential for real subversion; as viewers of anything visual we are put in a position to question reality, and that fragile moment when we doubt realness can be a very inspiring one indeed.
from Seb Patane: Chain Reaction by Catherine Wood, Flash Art, March 2009, pp.72-74.
Seb Patane was born in Italy in 1970. He graduated from Goldsmiths in 2002. Recent solo exhibitions include So this song kills fascists, Art Now, Tate Britain, 2007, Art Statements, Art 40 Basel and Constellations, Artissima, Turin, both in 2009. Patane has had previous solo shows at China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles and Galleria Fonti Naples, as well as Maureen Paley, London. His work has been included in numerous group shows, such as Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York and While Interwoven Echoes Drip into a Hybrid Body, migros museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich and in 2006 he was nominated for Beck’s Futures. Patane lives and works in London.