At first glance, the work of James Paterson appears to pay vibrant homage to the vintage ‘pin-up’ familiar to us from the first half of the 20th century, when style, pleasure and consumption came together in popular culture through the medium of posters and illustrative photography. The cultural significance of these images is far reaching and they have become a visual code for sophisticated and liberated lifestyle choices, making them some of the most iconic and representative styles of the modern era. But a closer look reveals that Paterson has brought together some unexpected elements to subvert the message and shift the narrative into a contemporary cultural era.
By placing each woman against a target and using bright colours, glamorous costumes and lights, Paterson has created the atmosphere of a circus ring to send a simple but effective message about the value of the individual in society. He has taken a traditional art form and applied a contemporary aesthetic, juxtaposing kitsch with irony to change the story and create a conversation piece with every image. The use of real arrows, working lights, and his technique of scoring, sanding and chipping the surface to give a worn and distressed finish all combine to give a 3D feel to each piece: another subtle but deliberate way to highlight the real-world qualities of the central figures.
From the very start of his life as an artist Paterson was interested in exploring ways to change the story and take a step beyond appearances to find his own truth. As a child he drew constantly but with the odd quirk of creating the image upside down. He would look closely at his subject and draw what he saw, then turn the image round when he had finished to see the ‘reality’ – what everyone else was seeing.
Paterson describes his upbringing as ‘small town urban’ and during his childhood he immersed himself in movies, TV, toys, games and music. As a young art student however he came across Pop art, and this completely changed his attitude to culture and consumption, as well as to what art could be and could mean. He found an artistic language that he felt comfortable with which allowed him to express himself freely and with purpose.
Paterson has received a series of prestigious commissions for movie posters including Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho and most recently Halsey’s HBO Max movie If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. He has also created work for Hawker Beechcraft’s magazine Journey and Rayban’s Never Hide campaign. His work is sold across the UK.
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