Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Review: Nick Patten
Provincetown is one of those vacation spots noted for its art galleries. Many of the artists showcased are often locals, so one sees plenty of Cape Cod scenes that seem targeted to tourists. I was startled then to discover the work of New York-born artist Nick Patten, whose work was on show at the Rice/Polak Gallery while I was there. Patten works in oil and is largely a self-taught artist. The Rice/Polak Gallery writes: "His careful compositions in light and shade capture the essence of Cape light illuminating a corner of a room or stairwell, imbuing both subject and viewer with a sense of serenity." While certainly this is true--lighting is one of the highlights of his work--what struck me most about his paintings were their uncanny, haunting realism. Works such as this one, View to the Foyer, are more complicated than at first they seem. His paintings have the open-frame, slice-of-life quality that Edgar Degas explored in many of his paintings. This painting reveals not what you see in front of you, but what you see in your peripheral vision. But the emptiness the space conveys makes you stop, turn your head, and pause. The stillness reminds me of paintings by Edward Hopper, where silence echoes beyond the canvas and into the viewer's mind, making him/her part of the scene. By gazing upon his paintings, the viewer enters Patten's rooms and quietly walks through the space, moving almost magically from painting to painting. His work truly demonstrates how classical rendering and style can appeal to both traditionalists and the avant-garde. For more of his work, visit his website at http://www.nickpatten.com/.