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Stephanie Vegh
Graeme Patterson at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
November 05, 2013

Graeme Patterson's Secret Citadel is the playground of two anthropomorphic figures – the artist as blue-clad bison and the cougar in orange as his companion and alienated other. Their friendship is kindled and just as charmingly destroyed among the constructed worlds that threaten to exceed one of the Art Gallery of Hamilton's most cavernous exhibition spaces. The artist's lavishly built environments are secretive things that set mountain within mountain and videos within dioramic homes that favour the selective memory of distant childhood over literal reconstruction. These invitingly tactile environments, unprecious in their craftsmanship and whimsically familiar, reward the viewer's inevitably intense curiosity with worlds that span 1980s suburbs, locker rooms, and predatory wilderness.

Graeme Patterson, Secret Citadel

A cage of paired bunk beds contain Secret Citadel's most enigmatic imagery – the cougar splits logs, while the bison burns blue and orange soldiers into a waxen lump that fuses their coded colours together. The bus crash at Camp Wakonda's centre that throws its fiery shadow against black-painted walls and the archery practice brought to a deliberately deadly end in one of several embedded animations are recast as cataclysms in Patterson's 30-minute film, snapping camaraderie into the brittle splinters that make the floors and window frames of a lonely garret at life's end. In this Player Piano Waltz, bison and cougar inhabit separate spaces in a glowing tavern and the barren apartments above, their childhood games exiled to memories bought for the price of a loonie fed into the piano.

This dense embroidery of character and signs creates an immersive universe that, taken as a whole, is Patterson's most accomplished work to date, and not to be missed when this show goes on tour across Canada next year.

Art Gallery of Hamilton:
Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel continues until January 5.

Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.



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