Courtesy of Sue Paterson
Sue Paterson’s new exhibit “Bursting into Life” reveals as much about where she grew up and has lived as it does about the risks that she’s taking herself. Raised in a small town on the South Island of New Zealand called Invercargill, Paterson was always artistic. “I had a very creative grandmother, who really taught me to see the detail in the world and in nature,” Paterson noted. “And of course I couldn’t help but being influenced by her. I was just fascinated by her because she just could turn nothing into something incredible with her hands.”
Paired with a vivid imagination, Paterson took an interest in drawing and painting. She became a top art student during high school, earning an honors degree. But when it was time to go on to higher education, she decided to make a big change. “I was just so hot to get out of this little tiny town, this cold little town at the bottom of New Zealand — the closest to the South Pole — so I actually went and applied for interior design school and got into interior design school at a very young age.”
Living in Australia, Paterson pursued careers in both graphic art and interior design so that she could have a stable income while being a single mother. But she never stopped painting. She recounted, “Having a passion for art, I was always doing it in some way, whether it was a commission from people or I was traveling and ended up doing a bunch of art and getting paid for it by people.”
Her vivid style has been described as surrealist expressionism and is inspired by impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Wassily Kandinsky. “The use of color is very important to me and the way colors bounce off each other, even opposite colors and the way they work together. But it’s my style as well, it’s realistic but it’s also not. It’s impressionistic with the realism in there at the same time.”
It’s also heavily impacted by that tiny town in New Zealand where she grew up and the land that she moved to. “New Zealand was my home. I have spent most of my time in Australia. Both countries influenced my art greatly, and they are incredibly different but they are very strong in the color sense and the light sense,” revealed Paterson.
She continued, “New Zealand being almost brighter and atmospherically — the colors are even more vivid. Although in Australia you get more of the ochre tones. So you’re getting more of the siennas and the ochre colors because it has more of a dessert element as well as the bush element and the subtropical element. So, it is quite different. Australia having the loudest birds, the biggest insects and lots of reptiles and snakes. It is a very wild and unique country in its flora and fauna, while New Zealand is probably more European and also very English.”
About eight years ago, Paterson started to shift more of her energy to her art, pursuing galleries and staging showings of her work. She even started to marry her skills as an interior designer and artist, creating pieces of usable art such as her “Wild Natives” collection chairs that feature her original work on the fabric.
But when her mother became ill a few years ago, Paterson realized that she needed to pursue her passion full-time. “She’d never really explored her art and was disappointed that she hadn’t. And then she got very, very ill for quite a period of time and passed away. I had to make a stand for myself. Losing her was a big kick in the tail to really do something because she would have wanted that.” Fueled by the knowledge that her mother was proud of her, Paterson felt, “I just owed it to her to really make a go at what I was good at.”
This period of time inspired “Bursting into Life,” which features pictures from that journey. “The actual exhibition is really about finding my inner joy and my way back to feeling that again through losing someone you love,” Paterson acknowledged. “But the exhibition itself is incredibly joyful because during that whole process of creating the art, it was like the grief just subsided and the joy came back. It’s quite evident when you see it.”
It’s also the perfect expression of Paterson’s true passion, which she described as “bringing something beautiful and balanced and bold and vibrant into the world. There’s a lot of darkness going on at the moment. There’s a lot of unrest. There’s a lot of lack of comfort. Particularly as an artist, I want something positive coming from my art. I want people to feel something that’s good. There’s enough political stuff out there. I don’t want something that’s going to make people feel unpleasant or uncomfortable or sad. This is my expression and my way of bringing something really positive and really joyful into the world.”
To see Sue Paterson's "Bursting into Life” art exhibition visit The Montalban Theater, Mezzanine Gallery at 1615 Vine St. in Hollywood until June 23 between 11 am and 8pm Tuesday through Sunday. And visit Sue Paterson’s website to learn more about her work.