Toby Paterson: Ever Growing Never Old
For anyone who’s ever stood in front of a piece of work by Toby Paterson and thought, ‘It’s nice … but I just don’t get it’, then this exhibition is for you. Ever Growing Never Old is a clear statement of how Paterson works, what inspires him, and how he gets from the ‘A’ of his modernist source material to the ‘B’ of his own work.
The product of a number of visits to Central and Eastern Europe, this exhibition encapsulates Paterson’s experience during his travels, while staying simultaneously rooted in his long-established interest in the physical presence and ideological (and in this case very much political) background of the modern built environment.
Some of this feels vaguely familiar: there is a large-scale wall painting, and a variety of ‘hybrid’ pieces that skirt the boundary between architectural model and modern sculpture, but there is an unusually soft, painterly quality to these works. Brushstrokes are subtly visible on surfaces, or explicitly so, as in the painted background that covers parts of the gallery walls.
The inclusion of photography, in the shape of two perfectly formed photomontages with candy coloured backgrounds (‘Nowa Huta Colour Study’, a large print of a section of apartment building and its surroundings, and a series of photographs of a dilapidated, graffiti-tagged Coca Cola kiosk) enables the viewer to see quite clearly the sources of many of Paterson’s ideas. The pastel hues on a building’s facade can be traced throughout the exhibition, while the Coca Cola kiosk, originally a beacon of modern capitalism, is transformed via Paterson’s six pristine painted elevations.
Paterson skilfully splices formal and aesthetic concerns with the very real social and political themes present within these particular urban landscapes. Visual interest and pleasure coexist alongside a solid conceptual framework – there is excitement and life in what could be dry architectural forms. If you don’t like Paterson’s work, this exhibition isn’t going to sway you one jot, but if you do (or think you might if you could get your head around exactly what’s going on), then this may well make you a true believer.
The Modern Institute, Glasgow, until Thu 9 Apr