About the Photographer
English, b. 1967
Simon Patterson is a multimedia artist interested in the arbitrary nature of language and information systems. His early work includes a series of diptychs, titled "Name Paintings," in which he silkscreens the names of iconic people and celebrities in American Typewriter font on vertical primed canvases. The vertical canvas format connotes full-length figures, while the seemingly simple act of reading names, such as the 1989 diptych of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, evokes the images, events, and other associations surrounding these celebrities. He employs names as abstract, readymade representations of the persons they reference, with the recognition that there is inevitable slippage between the linguistic signified and signifier. The names thus become starkly graphic and conceptual portraits, moving the space of representation from the physical image to the mind of the viewer. In 2000, Patterson carried this play with signification into an exploration of color systems formed for industry and technology. Using Hexadecimal color codes created for the web, in which specific colors are denoted by a string of sixteen digits and letters, he created a multimedia piece hosted on the website of the Tate, titled Le Match des couleurs.
Patterson’s work in the collection of the MoCP, High Plains Drifter (1998), brings together his interests in celebrity, pop culture, linguistic signification, and color systems. High Plains Drifter is a unique Cibachrome light box that garners its name from the 1973 Western of the same name starring Clint Eastwood. Accordingly, the composition centrally features Clint Eastwood’s name across the width of the light box against a background of what resembles SMPTE color bars, a type of television test pattern commonly used in North America. However, Patterson deviates from this standard test by placing his color bars in a different order and pattern. The rectangular shape and dimensions of the light box reference the standard 4:3 aspect ratio of television rather than the wider dimensions of cinema, suggesting the experience of watching the Clint Eastwood film at home on television instead of in a theater. As with Patterson’s earlier “Name Paintings,” he relies on Eastwood’s name for associations, connotations, and meanings, while the choice of font echoes the title or credits of a movie.
Simon Patterson studied at Hertfordshire College of Art and Design, Hatfield, UK, and at Goldsmiths College, London, UK, between 1985 and 1989. His early "Name Paintings" were included in the Freeze exhibition in London, UK, curated by Damien Hirst, in 1988. From this exhibition emerged a group known as Young British Artists, many of whom studied at Goldsmiths in the late 1980s. Young British Artists, including Patterson, were featured in the touring exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (1997); Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany (1998); and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY (1999-2000). Patterson has exhibited internationally, including major solo shows at Lisson Gallery, London, UK (1996); Kunsthaus, Zürich, Switzerland (1997); the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (2008); and Benrimon Contemporary, NY (2011). His work is held in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Tate Modern, London, UK; Haunch of Venison, London, UK; Seomi & Tuus, Seoul, South Korea; Osaka Museum of Art, Japan; and Roentgenwerke, Tokyo, Japan, among others. Patterson was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1996. He lives in London, UK.