Opening this month at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery is a traveling exhibition from one of Canada’s most exciting young artists. Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel explores the trials and tribulations of male friendship through a four part sculptural/video installation and an experimental stop-motion animated narrative.
Based in Sackville, New Brunswick, Patterson works in miniatures, using tiny figures to explore much bigger themes and stories. Although based on specific memories of the artist’s past, Secret Citadel draws you into its captivating worlds by highlighting universal themes of love and loss, play and competition, companionship and loneliness.
An anthropomorphized bison and cougar represent two boys in the artist’s visual coming-of-age tale that is as playful as it is poignant. Mountain begins their journey. This large wooden and fabric-covered mound connects Patterson’s and his friend’s miniature suburban homes, replicated with 1980s décor. The viewer can peek into the mountain to witness the boys’ creative meeting space. Their camaraderie continues in Camp Wakonda, two life-sized bunk beds with miniatures showing the boys playing games, chopping wood, and burning toys. Yet this childlike world is nuanced by the memory of a school bus crash and an archery match that ends in a fantasized death, hinting at the rivalry to come in adolescence.
Grudge Match overtly shows the competitive nature of teenage boys through a miniature wrestling match, locker room, and gym tucked beneath life-sized bleachers. The last sculptural piece, Player Piano Waltz, is an upright working piano that plays a haunting melody for a lone. Through the windows, the viewer glimpses different vignettes of these now estranged friends in adulthood: riding an elevator, sitting in a bar alone, recalling the old days. Devastating yet beautiful, this last piece mourns the end of two friends and the isolated worlds of adulthood.
Patterson’s many accomplishments include being shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award, and two nationally touring exhibitions. Co-curated by Melissa Bennett and Sarah Fillmore, Secret Citadel is on tour from the Art Gallery of Hamilton and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
The exhibition opens June 11 and shows until September 25, 2016. Patterson will be present and provide remarks at the Art Gallery’s Opening Gala for the Summer Exhibitions, which takes place Saturday June 18 at 7 p.m. at Confederation Centre.