City Gallery

Past exhibition

Reuben Paterson: The Only Dream Left

25 February–18 June 2023

The Only Dream Left is the largest exhibition to date of the world-bending practice of Reuben Paterson (Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāi Tūhoe, Tūhourangi). Paterson’s work first seduces with lavish colours, forms and materials, harnessing the magical and transformative properties of light. The swirling, optical energy of these works—often using his signature material of glitter—then pry open the complex issues and tensions that sit just beneath the surface of all things.  

Paterson’s work revolves around the relationships we have with our bodies, desires and cultures—and those we share or negotiate with others. Made in celebration of exchange and encounter, hybridity and fluidity, spirituality and sexuality, his work is especially attuned to the dynamics of queer identity and whakapapa-based modes of cultural knowledge. 

Curated by Aaron Lister and Karl Chitham, The Only Dream Left roams across Paterson’s twenty-five years of practice, moving between painting, sculpture, installation, and video. Little known and reconstructed works intermingle with celebrated pieces drawn from the collections of Aotearoa’s major public galleries—including two of the epic kaleidoscopic paintings from the Whakapapa Get Down Upon Your Knees series commissioned for the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. 

This major exhibition focuses on the breadth of ideas animating Paterson’s practice, and especially how a recent shift into large-scale sculpture has drawn out cosmological and esoteric dimensions in new ways. A new sculpture is set in a call-and-response relationship with Paterson’s majestic Guide Kaiārahi—a ten meter high glass and crystal sculpture installed on the forecourt of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki that brings forth the ‘phantom waka’ of Lake Tarawera. Visitors to the exhibition will be welcomed by The Golden Bearing, a four and a half metre high, gold-glittered tree. This is the first time this sculpture has been shown in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and alongside Paterson’s other work.  

The Only Dream Left presents a kind of imaginary playground based on a series of encounters, experiences and provocations. It looks back and across Paterson’s practice primarily to emphasise its journey forwards. The exhibition acknowledges Paterson’s immense contribution to the art and culture of Aotearoa over the last three decades, while revealing bold new directions and moves. A substantial publication on Paterson’s art will be produced alongside the exhibition. 

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