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"Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel" on view at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Graeme Patterson, The Mountain 2013. Mixed media installation. Photo: Mike Lalich.

HAMILTON.- The Art Gallery of Hamilton is presenting the première of Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel, a major travelling solo exhibition co-produced by the AGH and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Regarded as one of the most imaginative Canadian artists of our time, Graeme Patterson is a master story teller. Each of the large detailed sculptures in the exhibition contains a miniature world within that relates an extremely specific and complex narrative, at once playful, emotive and evocative. Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel is on view through January 5, 2014.

The theme of the exhibition was inspired by Patterson’s memory of his first best friend, Yuki, who moved away. The exhibition thus revolves around the trials and tribulations of growing up. Each sculpture focuses on a particular stage from early childhood and adolescence to adulthood. The works evoke the vulnerabilities of friendships, bonds made and broken, and delve into stories about love and loss.

Co-curated by Melissa Bennett, AGH Curator of Contemporary Art, and Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the exhibition will tour across Canada throughout 2014.

“This project has pushed me and my practice to places I never planned on going,” said Graeme Patterson.

The Mountain is a three-part sculpture containing miniature handmade worlds. A wooden and fabric covered mountain links two miniature model houses, the childhood homes of Patterson and his young best friend, that the artist recreated from memory. Viewers can peer inside tiny windows to see the living room, kitchen and bedrooms all decorated as he remembers them from the 1980s, with furniture and flooring made from tiny popsicle sticks, and scraps of textiles used for the carpet and curtains. Two costumed characters, small figurines of a bison and a cougar (also handmade by Patterson) represent the artist and his friend. Patterson brings the characters to life in stop motion animations that appear on tiny projection screens within the sculptures.

Camp Wakonda and Grudge Match also contain tiny detailed scenes within larger structures. The highly crafted sculptures, with their lively animations and evocative sounds, will leave no visitor unaffected.

Camp Wakonda, a new work never exhibited before, is made of two life sized bunk beds, each populated with scenes roughly based on Patterson's childhood memory, such as a school bus crash on a highway, complete with a tiny projection of flames.

The sculpture Grudge Match, which has been updated for this exhibition, is a set of bleachers that tower over small models of a locker room, weight room, and coach's office, also accompanied by a narrative projection.

Player Piano Waltz is a functioning player piano that visitors can activate by inserting a loonie. This work represents the completed transformation into manhood. A custom produced player piano roll plays Patterson’s own music. Player Piano Waltz comes to life with music and large wall projections when visitors insert a loonie into the piece. The money raised through the activation of the piece will be used by the artist to fund future works.

Graeme Patterson is one of Canada’s most engaging and talented artists. The stories he tells with his works are complex and powerful, and are sure to engage audiences of all ages. His sculptures entice visitors with their spectacular and unique forms—everyday objects such as gymnasium bleachers, houses and bunk beds are made otherworldly through transformation of scale. Visitors are drawn in to view the small scenes constructed within each of these structures, including miniature handmade furniture and small video animations.

“Patterson’s work is unforgettable, and we are extremely proud to be able to offer the experience of his works to our visitors—to engage with his work is to be emotionally moved and inspired by his completely unique perspective,” said Melissa Bennett, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

“The exhibition plans began three years ago when the AGH and AGNS recognized a mutual interest in supporting Patterson’s new body of work via a large-scale solo exhibition,” Bennett said. “The AGH is delighted to partner with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and co-curator Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator at the AGNS, on the presentation of this exhibition.”

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