Andy Patton is a painter, critic and scholar who lives in Toronto, Canada. For the last decade, his paintings have been deeply influenced by classical Chinese calligraphy—though they are in English, and use Western materials and Western traditions of colour and light.
An established artist since the late 1970s, he has explored various art forms, concepts and norms through his work resulting in notable changes in almost every decade. Anonymous and rebellious in spirit and refusing to merge with any trend of the art scene, he has used other artists’ images to make his own works, invaded Toronto streets with his posters and occupied abandoned industrial sites and private spaces with his fresco wall paintings. In addition he has spent more than ten years focusing on patterned abstract paintings.
He has represented Canada at the Biennale of Sydney and has exhibited in New York, Zurich, and Amsterdam. His works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario among others.
He has been fascinated by poetry and was a member, with the poets Kim Maltman and Roo Borson, of Pain not Bread: together they wrote Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei.
He received a PhD In Art and Visual Culture, University of Western Ontario, 2013. His dissertation: ‘A Painter’s
A Cottage at Year's End, Andy Patton, oil on canvas, (121.9 x 91.4cm), 2010
Splendours of the Imperial Capital, Andy Patton, oil on canvas, (167.6 x 121.9cm), 2008
Collection of Doctors Ron and Alice Charach
Brush That Also Makes Poems’: Contemporary Painting After Northern Song Calligraphy was awarded the Governor General’s Medal for Academic Excellence. He teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Canada's largest and oldest art school.
Andy Patton Artist Statement
My recent paintings have been deeply influenced by classical Chinese calligraphy, by the example of an art which could be both a visual art and a literary art. But my works remain Western paintings, relying on intense colour instead of monochrome, oil paint and canvas instead of ink on paper or silk, and often a drama of light and dark that comes from the European tradition. As oil paint demands, they are slow and carefully planned, instead of having the quick inventiveness of calligraphy—and of course, they use English letters instead of Chinese characters. In Chinese calligraphy—especially Su Shi’s Cold Food Scroll—I saw the possibility of bringing poetry’s emotional qualities into painting.
I am showing two paintings: Splendours of the Imperial Capital and A Cottage at Year’s End. Both of these were painted before I had ever visited China: each one imagines a site I had never seen. Splendours imagines Xi’an and confuses it with Chang’an, the ancient capital: the city and its ghost. I imagined the city walls in the summer’s heat, but shifting between the walls enclosing the Tang capital and the Ming period walls we see today. I thought of how the Tang city had collapsed, then expanded again, the houses and roads of Chang’an disappearing, the roads of Xi’an coming into being.
A Cottage at Year’s End imagines Wang Wei at his retreat in the mountains at Lantian, looking down at the dusty world below. Looking down, he sees the past dividing, and as it does, it feels like a kind of anguish. Oddly, what he thinks contains a phrase taken from Su Shi, who hadn’t been born yet—it’s a note of anguish from Wang’s future, which is our past.
The Flower on the Cliff’s Edge, Andy Patton, oil on canvas, (198.12 x 274.32cm), 1990