Richard Patterson, England
Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan, fractional and promised gift to the Denver Art Museum, 2001.808
Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2009. All Rights Reserved.
About the Artist
“To become a serious artist…there’s a feeling that you abandon your former self. It’s a decision you suddenly take,” says Richard Patterson, who decided he was going to be a serious artist around the age of 31. Patterson grew up in England and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Goldsmith College in London in 1986. In the early 2000s, he moved to America to experience something new. He now lives and works in Dallas, Texas. In much of his work, Patterson combines photography and painting in a unique way. For If, he began with a tiny toy soldier and slathered it with various colors of paint. He then photographed the figurine and painted the image from the photo against a background of theater marquees and city lights. Patterson paints with incredible precision, staying very close to his original photo.
What Inspired It
This painting was part of Richard Patterson’s first exhibit in New York City, which consisted of a series of what he calls “soldier paintings.” Patterson describes these paintings of small plastic soldiers covered in paint as “figurative but abstract.” We can tell that there is a figure in the center of the painting, but by covering this figure with layers and layers of paint, Patterson has created a more abstract image. The soldier now appears as a more generalized shape, one that doesn’t seem to represent anything in the real world. Of his soldier paintings, Patterson says, “Somehow they can feel like they sort of hover in space a bit. So I wanted them to feel like hallucinations.”
This soldier is set against a background image of Times Square in New York City, which Patterson copied from a photo taken by his father in the 1970s. He covered the figure with the same colors that are found in the background image.
Drawing upon popular culture, Patterson often uses movie titles or music lyrics to name his artworks. This painting is based on a British film from the 1960s called If. The film tells the story of a group of rebellious boys at a private high school.
Patterson used light and shadow to give the globs of paint a three-dimensional quality, even though the actual painting has a smooth, flat surface.
In the background we see the lights and marquees of Times Square in New York. The background scene is blurry, showing the effects that a camera would have when focused on the figure in the foreground. Patterson used a photograph taken by his father in the 1970s as inspiration for the background scene.
The figure’s back is facing us as he moves toward the city lights in the background. The shape of the soldier is practically unrecognizable under the many layers of paint.
Though Patterson began with a tiny toy figurine, the final painting is nearly life-size.