Where does the conceptual in art go in today’s multi- and new media world, when anything can be represented, displayed and distributed? Perhaps it returns to its source. The notion of the conceptual came out of a belief that art can be distilled into its purest essence: the sensuality of an idea. Berry Patten examines her everyday experiences as a late twenty-something woman and as an artist working in London. She employs the tools at her disposal and a language devised from the emergent mainstream social-digitalist synthesis that surrounds her. Patten describes it as using “domestic assemblages to examine the gaps between transmitted and received ideas of aspiration and their… reality”.
For an artist who invests so much in the “personal”, Patten is conspicuously absent from her work. Instead of appearing herself, she provides us with a distinct impression of the personalities we tend to ascribe to material possessions. An image of an oyster-pink gold Michael Kors watch is superimposed on a turquoise quartz background. There is a picture of a picture on a computer screen, a seemingly candid street shot of a man turning to check out a woman as she walks by in white heels and a frilled black stretch dress. A toiletry set has been stripped of its labels; a piece of limestone chalk is placed in a weed grinder; a fake bejewelled Sky TV remote sits on a podium shaped like a marijuana leaf.
Patten says she chooses the materials in her work for their fragility and cheap quality, what she calls “a turn of the millennium aesthetic”. They evoke a culture of trash, quick expiry, built-in obsolescence. It would be convenient to view this tendency only as a symptom of corporate conspiracy, but it may well reveal something more sobering, more fundamental to the way we live.
Patten’s attention to the material has its precedents in melodrama and in modernist thought (from the Futurist manifesto to German Expressionism): she shares the conviction that objects have a subjective value far greater than their inherent one. They have a relationship with us as much as we do with them. What Berry Patten does is to explore the limits of our control.
Clockwise, from top left: Gonzo Holiday. Southwark. Le Shark. All (2013). Stills of Eva By Heart (2012). Interior Swimming (2013). Clockwise, from top left: Plateau. Pure Sure. My Lil’ Oasis. Style Life. TVBASE. All (2013). *D (2012). All courtesy of the artist.