Pictured above is Graeme Patterson's Secret Citadel installation.
Local artist Graeme Patterson has an art project called Secret Citadel which currently being displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Secret Citadel, a project five years in the making, is based on Patterson’s memories and experiences of male bonding friendships.
Patterson said the best way to describe it would be a miniature self-referential world.
The narrative is told by an anthropomorphic cougar and bison, which Patterson said he chose because of their more serious presence and the fact that they weren’t to personal to any one person in his life, either friends or himself.
“I picked those two because they’re kind of my favorite mascots as animals but also kind of polar opposites.”
The work is broken down into four parts of different time periods, age groups and friendships with a 30-minute stop motion animation.
Patterson said people might find it confusing and overwhelming and as if there is a lot going on.
“They might not all relate at first but it’s the kind of thing where you spend more time and you start to hopefully connect.”
Patterson noticed different reactions towards this body of work and said there is a broader group of interest in it than in his previous work.
“With this one, kids love it and teenagers are kind of frightened. I think there is awkwardness about it. Something a little creepy, either imperfections or suggestive things within the narrative that they get but aren’t sure of.”
Patterson said adults react in many ways to the piece saying some turn into kids when they see it.
“The people that really want to invest in the deeper layers get there.”
Patterson said Secret Citadel, while based on real experiences, is also complete fiction.
“It’s intended that the viewer doesn’t really know which is which. They know that some of it must come from reality in a certain way.”
Adding fiction into his work takes away from it being too personal, said Patterson and he finds that doing that makes creating the work more fun and the topic more universal.
“In the end it’s more about expressing the feelings than expressing the details.”
The idea for Secret Citadel came to Patterson when he moved into a house with two male friends.
He said it was the first time he had been living with roommates like that and his time there brought back memories of when he was a kid, spending everyday with his friends.
“It just clicked that I really missed that. So, I started to obsess about the past and the present and about my feelings on it. Then that just opened more doors about older memories on feelings I never really thought about much.”
Patterson says it’s an exploration, trying to uncover things he may have buried or thought weren’t important.
“It always comes from a personal place.”
Patterson is currently working on the designs for a hard cover catalogue while curators writing the texts on Secret Citadel, which should be finished by late spring.
“I am also trying to retell the story through book format. So it becomes a new way to experience the work, which is enjoyable. I think when artists are allowed to design their own catalogues it’s usually a good thing.”
As for other major art work Patterson said he is playing around with things he found interesting and is in the experimenting mode again. He has a few things in mind.
“I’m interested in how mostly domestic appliances and machines with the history can really represent something. I start with some kind of domestic furniture or object and use that as a base or some kind of metaphor.”
Patterson said a player piano that he used in his Secret Citadel work is what opened doors to possible new work.
“It’s a machine, it functions and it works even though it’s like 100 years old. Right now I’ve got a fridge and an old sewing machine. I might try to find another player piano and see where that leads.”
Patterson said it takes patience to come up with an idea and time to do it.
“It’s one of those things that if you’re working on a project for say five years, the longer you spend the more layers you add.”
Patterson said he follows what he’s interested in and trusts that ideas will come and that his work will start to mean something and defy what everything he was doing before.
“It grows in an unpredictable way.”
Patterson said he is fortunate.
“The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has always been a big supporter in what I do, so they were always kind of ready for another tour, another show.”
Paterson said it is unknown when a tour, like the one Secret Citadel is on, will happen for him again.