Interview: Charlie Oscar Patterson
28.01.20 Words by Wrap

Interview: Charlie Oscar Patterson

Making bold graphic art pieces and large-scale murals, we sit down with Charlie to discover more about his evolving creative practice.
28.01.20 Words by Wrap

Charlie Oscar Patterson’s bright geometric wall-pieces play with the distinction between painting and sculpture, experimenting with lines and spatial boundaries in a manner which is somehow simultaneously minimalist and exuberant. He has long been influenced by music, listening and responding to his favourite pieces as he creates his art. However, his more recent work takes his musical interest further, so that he views his artworks as instruments in themselves – experimenting with and interpreting light instead of sound. We chat to him about how his work is evolving, his London solo show last summer, and his plans for 2020.

Tell us about your workspace and your creative routines.

I am based in Kent – I’ve moved back to the area I grew up in after seven years in London and have actually just moved house. The plan is to build a new studio, but for the moment I’m in the spare room. I don’t really have a routine, but most days consist of building new frames or painting – I usually have several things on the go. And we have three dogs, so they get me out and about every day. There are some great sights hidden away in our area, especially if you like walking or bird watching – we’ve even had flamingoes migrate to the local natural pools.

You started off as a graphic designer. How did you move into your current art practice?

Graphic design was my introduction into the creative world. I’ve always drawn and made things, but I had never really considered art as a career choice. It wasn’t until I started telling people that I wanted to paint murals and do large-scale works that I realised it was something I could actually pursue. During my last job as a designer at Studio Moross, I was also getting commissioned to do murals for offices and retail stores and it got to the point where I didn’t have the time to do both, so when the time felt right, I left. In the beginning, I concentrated on discovering my style and exploring exactly what it was I wanted to make. My work had always been quite graphic – colourful and geometric, but I knew I wanted to push it in a new direction. I’ve always loved building things, so I experimented with cutting pieces out of wood and then began to make shaped frames and stretch canvas over them.

"My work had always been quite graphic – colourful and geometric, but I knew I wanted to push it in a new direction. I’ve always loved building things, so I experimented with cutting pieces out of wood and then began to make shaped frames and stretch canvas over them."

How do you use music to inform your work, translating sound into shape?

Using music came really naturally to my work – I’ve always drawn whilst listening to some form of instrumental sounds, but it first dawned on me that I was actually drawing to the music when I had on BBC Proms Classical Music of India and Pakistan. That was the first piece of work I made that felt more than overlapping shapes, and like a response to the music. I was never trying to interpret the sounds into shapes – it was more like dancing; the sounds enter your brain and your body responds by moving in a certain way. In my newer more minimal work, this has evolved slightly, so that the work sits alongside the music. It is no longer a response, it feels more like an equivalent.

Is there anything at the moment that’s especially inspiring you?

There is so much good music that I keep discovering. I recently came across the harpist Mary Lattimore, and there’s an album called Saunter by Chihei Hatakeyama that I come back to every time I really need to concentrate. But my absolute favourite has to be John Abercrombie’s ‘Timeless’ track. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do any work with it, but, for now, it’s up there as my number one piece of music.

Walk us through how a piece comes into being, from sketchbook to finished piece.

I draw sketches which I then scan and try to make sense of how I can make the shapes 3D – which areas will sit in the foreground and which might have relief pushing the canvas out. Sometimes I already know what the colours are going to be from this first point, but often this stage comes later and changes as it is being painted. There needs to be a balance with the colours, usually at least one dark, one light and multiple middle tones. If everything is the same tone then the piece won’t feel balanced and looks too flat. The next step is using Illustrator to calculate sizes of everything, and then cut it out. The rest is fairly straightforward – stretch the canvas, prime, paint, varnish.

The work you created for your solo show Lisztomania at Protein Studios last August was quite a different direction for you, not least because the canvases were squares and rectangles rather than overlapping shapes. What inspired this new direction?

I have felt for a while that something needed to change in my work, I was making the shaped pieces busier and more colourful because I wanted them to have energy and really dance to music. However, I realised that that making them more complicated didn’t necessarily make them say any more. I knew I wanted to simplify them but also develop the reason I was making them. My newer works have become their own instruments. They are about the surface, the paint and the space they fill. Rather than interpreting sound, they interpret light through their form. The works change constantly as you move around them and the light hits them differently. I was really pleased with the response from the show, everything has sold, and I’ve got a few big projects on which involve the new work.

"I really enjoy doing large works for the personal satisfaction of being able to stand back and take in something massive."

You’ve created murals and artworks for clients including The Conran Shop and Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Smoke – what’s it like creating work on such a big scale?

I really enjoy working on a large scale. I love going to see huge works and seeing their effect on people, for example the room full of giant works by Rothko. If they were tiny they wouldn’t have any impact at all, it’s the sheer scale of them that completely engulfs you and forces you to see them.

So do you enjoy the fact that it opens your work up to a large audience by being in a public space?

With most public pieces I’ve done, I design the work to fit in with the space, rather than stand out. For example, with a piece of work for a restaurant, I think about the audience in terms of “will this painting drive them crazy while they’re sitting eating lunch?”, but I never really think about whether people will actually like it or even acknowledge it. Of course, it’s a good thing that the work gets to be seen, but really I enjoy doing large works for the personal satisfaction of being able to stand back and take in something massive.

It’s the start of the new year – what are your plans and aims for 2020?

I would like to see more things this year – more live music, talks, events, nature, all the real things. Work-wise, I’ve got a show coming up in April with Morgan Furniture in their Clerkenwell showroom. I’m putting together a big 10 metre painting which will be my largest 3D work yet so that should be really fun!