The Arbitrary Ritual, now on at The Glasgow School of Art

01 DSCF1873

It’s been a long and exciting journey since I was first awarded the Steven Campbell New York scholarship in late 2016. The Arbitrary Ritual is the culmination of 3 years of collaboration with artists and models in both Scotland and New York.  The exhibition is now entering its final 10 days (running until the 20th Dec, Mon-Sun 10am-4.30pm). If you haven’t yet had the chance to see it, swing by the Reid Building, The Glasgow School of Art, 164 Renfrew Street.

There’s also a 106 page Arbitrary Ritual publication available, where I write about each stage of the project, and the different artists and models that collaborated with me during my time in New York. If you are interested in purchasing a copy for £10 (plus P&P), please contact me at


02 DSCF1937

I would like to thank all of the artists and models who collaborated on this project. Everyone put a massive amount of thought and creative energy into their contributions, with many collaborators keeping in touch and offering advice and insight long after my time in New York came to an end.

03 DSCF1934

04 DSCF1861

I would also like to thank the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York for providing a rich and stimulating creative environment in which this project could evolve. Thanks are due to Kari Conte, Susan Hapgood and the rest of the ISCP staff, who gave advice and support throughout my time there.

05 DSCF1943

06 IMG_6075

Thank you to Jenny Brownrigg and the rest of The Glasgow School of Art’s exhibitions team for providing a venue for The Arbitrary Ritual and for offering curatorial advice and guidance in the run up to the show.

09 IMG_6079


Thank you to Creative Scotland and The Saltire Society for providing funding and support. Massive thanks are due to The Steven Campbell Trust for giving funding during the New York portion of the project, and also covering costs for the final exhibition. Without the dedication and initiative of the trustees, this project would not have been possible.



Finally, thanks to all members of the public who have shown interest and support over the course of the exhibition.



15 Herald 15th Nov 2019

16 Scotsman 15th Nov 2019

To read Jan Patience’s Herald article on the exhibition, follow the link below:

The Arbitrary Ritual

03 The Arbitrary Ritual - DSCF8085

The Arbitrary Ritual, Oil on Canvas, 92 x 122cm

After a delay caused by the fire at the Glasgow School of Art, my solo exhibition is now back on track.

The Arbitrary Ritual will showcase work inspired by collaborations I undertook while on the 2016-17 Steven Campbell New York Scholarship (funded by Creative Scotland, The Saltire Society and The Steven Campbell Trust). It opens on the 14th of November at the Glasgow School of Art’s Reid building, and runs from 15th November to 20th December 2019.

For a preview of some of the new work that will be displayed in the exhibition, please take a look at my newly designed website:

I hope to see you all at the opening of The Arbitrary Ritual in November!

13 The Initiate's Return - DSCF8026

The Initiate’s Return, Oil on Canvas, 80 x 100cm

02 Barotrauma (Descent) IMG_8630

Barotrauma (Descent), Oil on Canvas, 100 x 100cm

LOVE, Collages by Steven Campbell, Tramway, Glasgow until March 25th

Image 1

This weekend represents the last chance to see Love, Collages by Steven Campbell at Tramway in Glasgow – an exhibition that features a series of collages that are as visually stunning as they are conceptually complex. Yesterday, I visited the show for a second time, to have a closer look at the work before it comes down. The first time I went was during Love’s public opening back in January: a bustling event that was packed with so many people it was often difficult to see the work. The fact that such a huge number of visitors had made it to the opening despite the terrible weather conditions at the time – braving ice, snow and delayed trains just for a chance to attend – serves as testament to how popular and relevant Campbell’s work remains, appealing to the imaginations of public and critics alike.

Though it was exciting to see Campbell’s collages during the busy public opening, and share in the enthusiasm of other admirers, I enjoyed viewing the pieces in the quieter atmosphere of the gallery space yesterday afternoon. Campbell’s work lends itself to solitary moments of contemplation and repeated viewings. These particular works employ a very novel means of construction, with lengths of painted string applied to the surface of the canvas to create a tapestry-like effect – a time-consuming process that evidences great dedication on the part of the artist.


Image 2

Steven Campbell, Birth of Eurithia with Drowned Family

In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about how Campbell’s work opens itself up to multiple interpretations, many of which will be unique to whoever’s viewing them. One of my own personal favourites in this show is ‘Birth of Eurithia with Drowned Family.’ Here, we see what appears to be a family relaxing in a domestic setting, framed against the backdrop of an ordinary suburban street. In this setting, a body of water floats in defiance of gravity, drowning the two central figures that seem utterly oblivious to their own demise as they relax on the living room couch.

In the piece’s title, Campbell appears to be referencing the Greek myth of Orithyia, which tells of the abduction of a mortal woman by a violent God, who snatches her as she plays on the banks of the river Illisos near Athens. Perhaps the baby in the picture is the metaphorical equivalent of a new-born Orithyia, who has just entered a strange and dangerous world. As the parents drown – their heads submerged in a floating river – the baby lies on its banks, ready to be abducted or snatched away by other sinister forces.

Image 3

Steven Campbell, Penelope at Home Waiting for Dad’s Return

In Greek myths families are constantly under threat from dark forces, and this seems to be a running theme in Campbell’s collages. The friction between domesticity and danger also features in the piece Penelope at Home Waiting for Dad’s Return, in which Penelope – in her role as faithful wife – suffers a tragic accident, while her son plays with matches on the living-room floor. The ‘Dad’ in the title could be Campbell himself, represented by a small portrait on the wall of the family home. Here, the artist appears to have cast himself in the role of Odysseus, adventuring in the imaginative realm whilst events unravel in his absence: accidents and dangerous forces beyond his control. The time-consuming way that these collaged works were constructed, could be a ritual Campbell performed to fend off apprehension about these dangerous forces – a form of artistic catharsis.

Image 4

Steven Campbell, The Family of the Accidental Angel

Another of my favourite pieces is The Family of the Accidental Angel, which offers a wealth of striking imagery defying easy interpretation. In this work, a family sits on the banks of a river, whilst a mysterious figure appears in a shimmering waterfall.

There are distinct hints of the mythological about this Eden-like scene. Unusually for a Campbell piece, the male figure is nude. Having shed his clothes – and perhaps with them the trappings of a socially constructed identity – he seems to be communing with the figure within the waterfall, and a twining rope connects them like an umbilicus. The ambiguous relationship between these two characters suggests that they may in fact be reflections of one another – the apparition within the waterfall a shadow-Anima, manifested with properties of the opposite sex.

The inclusion of a host of real feathers glued near the bottom of the composition adds another element of mystery, suggesting that one of the figures has recently shed an angel’s wings.

Image 5

Steven Campbell, Dream of the Hunter’s Muse

In another blog post, I’ve written about the painting ‘Hunter Looking for his Glasses’, in which a gun wielding hunter attempts to track down the elusive meaning of art. The Hunter also makes his presence known in this exhibition, stalking through the collaged scenery on a violent quest for truth.

In ‘Dream of the Hunter’s Muse’ Campbell utilizes imagery that suggests something of the power-dynamic between artist and subject in representational painting. Here, the ‘muse’ or the object of the hunter/artist’s gaze appears to be the victim of violence. Nude and surrounded by slain animals, she also seems to have been shot for the hunter’s gratification. Campbell would have been aware of the issues surrounding the appropriation of identity that’s involved when one person represents, or misrepresents, another in art. But he’s muddied the waters here. Like all power-dynamics in art, the relationship isn’t simply one-sided – the muse has her own dreams, and gives every appearance of being relaxed and serene as she reclines in her own spilled blood. The question remains: is the hunter/artist dreaming of the muse, or is she dreaming of him?

One of the most exciting things about Campbell’s work is that it’s open to multiple interpretations. What may have specific meanings and associations for me, will likely be entirely different for another viewer. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t been to see Love yet, to make it along to this brilliant show at Tramway over its final weekend (Saturday 12-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm).

Open Studio Event 2017

Claire Paterson, Triangulation with Phantom Eye Syndrome

Claire Paterson, Triangulation with Phantom Eye Syndrome – Oil on Panel / Pose improvised in collaboration with model Les Duncan, with plaster-cast head contributed by G.P, and image detail cropped by New Mexico artist Elizabeth Kay. Diagrammatic / symbolic element selected by model Les Duncan.

To see these and other new paintings, please come and visit me during my Open Studio weekend, Friday 21st – Monday 24th April. Write to me at if you’d like to attend, and I’ll send you the address of my studio.

Claire Paterson, Mount Grove Exhumation – Oil on Panel / Pose improvised in collaboration with model Jane Hamilton, with image detail cropped by New Mexico artist Elizabeth Kay. Diagrammatic / symbolic element selected by model Jane Hamilton.

Ruth Inge Hardison


Inge Hardison, left, in 1957, with a sculpture she donated to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Her daughter, Yolande, unveils the work, with the help of Martin R. Steinberg, hospital director (Credit Allyn Baum/The New York Times)

During my time in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with many interesting and creative figure models, all of whom contributed to my collaborative myth-making project. One model who came to my studio to participate was Yolande Hardison, who truly entered into the spirit of the collaboration, working with another model called Daniel to create dynamic and theatrical scenes that I certainly couldn’t have conceived of alone. The 2 hour session in my studio with Yolande and Daniel was enormous fun, with lots of laughter and creativity.


Yolande Hardison with a poster cataloguing some of her late mother Inge Hardison’s achievements

After our collaboration was over, Yolande told me a little bit about her mother, the late sculptor, photographer and actress Ruth Inge Hardison (you can see the two of them together in 1957, in the image at the top of this blog post). Yolande spoke about her mother’s work with such passion and enthusiasm, painting a vivid picture of what Inge Hardison was like as a person. Yolande is currently in the process of planning a book about her mother’s career, in which she hopes to provide insight into Inge Hardison’s life from the perspective of a daughter who loved her and knew her well – offering a different sort of reading experience to art books that tend to only focus on the professional, rather than the personal.


Yolande’s apartment, packed with her mother’s art

A week after her modelling session, Yolande was kind enough to invite my boyfriend Brian and I to her apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan, where we were given the opportunity to see some of her mother’s work. The living room was packed with an array of sculptures from every stage of Inge Hardison’s career, the walls covered in her black-and-white photographs that beautifully captured the everyday lives of people in her community. As well as preserving and displaying her mother’s artwork, Yolande has started the time-consuming process of cataloguing articles and documents related to her mother’s life and art career.


Inge Hardison’s sculpture of Jesus



Inge Hardison’s photograph of musician T-Bone Walker


Inge Hardison’s photograph of Bricklayers (1940’s-60’s), from her ‘Construction Series’

There are various online sources available in which you can find out more about Inge Hardison (links are provided at the bottom of this page), but I’ll give a brief overview of her life, so that you can see what a privilege it was to view such an extensive collection of her work, and find out what she was like as a person. The information below is quoted directly from the article, Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (


‘Ruth Inge Hardison was born in Virginia in 1914.  Soon after her birth, her parents fled Jim Crow racism and segregation, settling in Brooklyn. After graduating from high school, she landed the role of “Topsy,” the enslaved child in the 1936 Broadway production of “Sweet River,” George Abbott’s adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her portrayal of the slave girl whose brutal treatment doesn’t kill her wit and kindness won her rave reviews. She also appeared in “The Country Wife” with Ruth Gordon, and in the 1946 production of “Anna Lucasta,” co-starring with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

‘In the midst of all this, Inge Hardison discovered clay and was swept by the beauty and power of this material coming from the earth and, with it, her own ability and passion to express herself in this art form. She is best known for a series of bronze busts, begun in 1963, of African Americans who fought slavery and led the struggle for civil rights, and who at that time had not yet been acknowledged in the National Hall of Fame in Washington, DC: Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

‘One sees palpably in her work her great respect for those who helped change history, as in her series, “Ingenious Americans,” which includes Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) surveyor, clock-maker, mathematician; and Garrett Morgan (1877-1963), inventor of early traffic lights and gas masks. She also sculpted large public works: a life-size bronze, Mother and Child (her gift to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after the birth of her daughter Yolande’.

Source: Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (



Yolande holding one of her mother’s sculptures

As well as being inspired by Inge Hardison’s work, one of the things I found most personally touching about my trip to the apartment was hearing her daughter Yolande’s stories about her. Yolande showed Brian and I a lovely video taken during Inge Hardison’s 100th birthday celebration, at which her mother was able to give an inspiring and motivational speech, in spite of her Alzheimer’s, which at that stage in her life was very advanced. Yolande also read us a short story that she wrote about her mother – describing a trip they took together to a local park, which captures beautifully a fleeting moment in time, giving insight into the nature of their relationship. After hearing this story, I’m very much looking forward to reading Yolande’s book about her mother when it’s released.


A bust of Yolande as a little girl, which her mother sculpted from life

I was also very interested to learn that Yolande got into life modelling after being sculpted by her mother when she was just a little girl (see above image).


Sculpture of Sojourner Truth

Just before Brian and I left Yolande’s apartment, she very kindly gifted me a brooch, whose design is based on her mother’s sculpture of the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (, along with a typed copy of her own short story. These are wonderful mementos of my time in New York, which I’ll treasure along with my memories of seeing Inge Hardison’s work and legacy.


Brooch of Sojourner Truth

To find out more about Inge Hardison, please follow the links below:



Steven Campbell: ‘Spider on the Window, Monster in the Land’


In recognition of the fact that the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship was made possible by of the creative legacy of the artist himself, I’d like to talk about some of my favourite paintings of his over the next couple of weeks.

Steven Campbell’s work is complex and multifaceted, extensively referencing the history of art and philosophy in order to create his own distinctive narratives and mythology. Literature too served as an inspiration for Campbell, and though he would weave elements from various literary genres into his work, he was particularly drawn to the greats of the Gothic genre.

This nod to Gothic literature is apparent in one of my favourite Campbell paintings, Spider on the Window, Monster in the Land (above), a piece inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe story – a tale which, according to Campbell himself, ‘took its inspiration from a painting’ (source: p.83, The Paintings of Steven Campbell: The Story so Far, by Duncan MacMillan).

In Poe’s story, the protagonist looks through a window and sees a monster on the hill in the distance. Terrified, he looks again, realising that the monster is actually only a spider on the window.

This seems to be the case in Campbell’s painting too, but on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the artist has complicated matters by placing figures in the landscape, fleeing in fear – a pictorial trick that raises the question: is the insect located on the web in the window, or is it enormous and chasing people through the landscape beyond the glass?

As the writer Duncan MacMillan says in his book on Campbell, the artist is investigating ‘different levels of painted space, and depths of narrative reality’ (p.83), an idea that’s reinforced by the symbolism featured in the piece.

One of the characters in Campbell’s painting holds a book, perhaps intended to make us think of the stories we often use to interpret our own reality. There are also mirrors spaced throughout the composition: alluding to the different artists throughout history who’ve used mirrors as pictorial devices intended to peel back and expose the illusions contained in the picture plane itself.

In Spider on the Window, there are two odd figures reflected in what appears to be a large mirror on the left of the central group. This device is reminiscent of the unconventional composition found within the painting Las Meninas (below), by the 17th century artist Velazquez, in which a mirror is used to explore the spatial relationship between the sitters and the artist himself.



If we go by the position of the reflected figures in Spider on the Window, however, we see that they should be visibly situated in the very centre of the composition with their backs to us, standing between the seated figures and the mirror itself. Perhaps they could be ghosts or reverse-vampires in this scenario: reflected in the mirror, but invisible in the room itself. But this is only the case if we accept that the object is actually a mirror, and not in fact a further painting within the painting – an idea that would be supported by the shadow that falls across the object’s surface.

In the top left hand corner, we see another mirror – or possibly another painting – reflecting (or depicting) an insect scuttling across a landscape, making us even more aware that everything in this scene is illusion. This unsettling sense of artifice is further amplified by the inclusion of the strange, dislocated nudes, two of whom hold up hand mirrors that reflect nothing. Again, Campbell disorients with ambiguity, calling into question the painted reality he presents to us.

To quote Campbell himself here: ‘The flatness of the window is like the flatness of the canvas and the flatness of the mirrors. I painted the chairs and the women in the foreground flat to play with this idea of distance and flatness and what a canvas is.’

This painting is a wonderful example of the intricate games Campbell liked to play with perception – all the while exploring the language & sign systems we use to construct our understanding of the world around us.

Next week, I’ll be looking at the way in which Campbell used the character of Pinocchio to explore, in his own words, ‘what was the truth and what was lies in painting… a kind of play on what is honest art and what is untrue art.’

Sources used in this blog post: The Paintings of Steven Campbell: The Story So Far by Duncan MacMillan. If you’re wanting to find out more about the work of Steven Campbell, I’d highly recommend getting this Duncan MacMillan book, which looks at Campbell’s work in a great deal of depth. The book is available to purchase on Amazon.

In previous blog posts, I’ve also referenced the book ‘Steven Campbell: Wretched Stars, Insatiable Heaven’, by Kathy Chambers and Neil Mulholland (also available to order on Amazon)


Final Fortnight in New York


Here are some highlights from my final busy weeks in New York. I just want to thank everyone who’s made this residency possible: including the Steven Campbell Trust, the Saltire Society, the staff at the ISCP, and all of the models & artists I’ve collaborated with while I’ve been here. The whole experience has been inspiring and unforgettable, and I feel it will have an impact on my practice for years to come.

Tuesday 17th January


This evening I spoke at an Artist’s Salon event at the International Studio and Curatorial Programme, discussing my own collaborative project and the work of Steven Campbell.

NY figure model Zeke Jolson also attended the talk, and was able to offer his own thoughts on the myth-making process from a model’s perspective. I invited attendees up to my studio afterwards to see some of the results of the project, receiving some very useful feedback and insight into the new work.


Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya (aka. Akirash) , OWO NI KOKO, 2016 -1903 X 1269 –

ISCP resident Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya (aka. Akirash) also spoke at the Salon event, discussing his practice in which he utilizes ‘a multitude of techniques and materials, including repurposed objects, with which he creates mixed media paintings, sculptures, installations, video works, photographs, sound pieces and performances.’ To learn more about Akirash’s art and his non-profit organisation that seeks to empower children, youths and young mothers, please visit:


Studio visit with Akirash

A couple of days after the Salon event, my partner Brian an I visited Akirash in his 2nd floor studio, where we were able to see some of his work in progress, including a piece made from reels of photo-negative film spilling down one wall like a waterfall; intricately woven sculptures unwinding from the ceiling; and dozens of hand-made suitcases and trunks displaying the currency of various countries.


Akirash kindly lent me a piece for use in my final myth-making sessions with models: a netted sculpture woven from string and cardboard, that’s deceptively small and compact until it’s unfurled.


Claire Paterson – Akirash’s sculpture unfurled during collaborative session with models

Wednesday 18th January

This afternoon I arranged a photo session with 2 models, Yolande and Daniel. With 2 people collaborating together, the myth-making process took on a different, very theatrical dynamic: the studio becoming more like a stage where various strange and spontaneous scenes were played out over the course of a couple of hours.

Thursday 19th January


Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion (

Today Brian & I attended a Third Thursday event at ISCP Director Susan Hapgood’s house, where she treated us to some homemade guacomole, and we got the opportunity to catch up with other residents. The ISCP then arranged for us to gain free access to the Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion, where we were given complimentary cocktails.

Friday 20th January

This morning I had a meeting with visiting critic Xiaoyu Weng, a curator at the Guggenheim and the founding director of the Kadist Foundation’s Asia Programs. She gave me some great tips on artists to look up, including Chinese artist Yin-Ju Chen, who looks at the relationship between the cosmos and human behaviour, and ‘the varying methods we use to understand the universe and the rules which govern it.’ (

In the afternoon, NY figure models Zeke and Tania came to my studio for a photo shoot, and we were able to use Akirash’s beautiful sculpture as an interactive prop. This was the second time model Zeke Jolson has worked with me, and I’m looking forward to getting his perspective on the results of this new collaboration.

Saturday 21st January


Claire Paterson, Documenting Studio

Today I made photographic documentation of sculptures and props, before getting started on the long process of clearing out my studio: returning work to different artists around the city, and finding homes for all of the objects I’ve collected and found in thrift stores over the last couple of months.


Photographic documentation of Amber Fleming’s wish-bone sculpture


Sunday 22nd January


This morning Brian & I were invited out to the apartment of NY figure model Yolande Hardison, who wanted to show us the work of her late mother Ruth Inge Hardison – a sculptor and photographer.(


It was a real honour being shown around Yolande’s apartment and getting to see her mother’s wonderful work. I’m actually planning to dedicate a full blog post to my trip to Yolande’s house – which I’ll put online in a couple of week’s time.

Thursday 26th January

Today I had a meeting in my studio with Valerie Smith, a curator at Barnard. She introduced me to the work of various different artists, including Cerith Wyn Evans, who focuses on adopting ‘a communal rather than a single authorial voice’.

In the afternoon I headed down to DUMBO for a meeting with Anne Barlow at Art in General, where we talked about future possibilities for my collaborative project, and ways it might possibly be developed.


Smack Mellon gallery

Brian and I finished off the day by visiting the Smack Mellon gallery, which had an exhibition on by figurative artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. After dusk fell, we took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to see the city at night.


Friday 27th January


This morning I finished emptying my studio, and after saying goodbye to residents and staff, handed in my keys.


In the afternoon, B and I visited the Neue Gallery, before heading a couple of blocks up the road to the Guggenheim, where we were particularly drawn to a work by Sun Xun called Mythological Time, an animated video projection depicting a strange world where past, present and future seem to coexist, expanding ‘the traditional notion of history to include half-remembered or fantastical images, myths and ideologies.’


Mythological Time, an animated video projection by Sun Xun

We then had a dusk-time stroll through Central Park, stumbling across the huge Alice in Wonderland statue overlooking one of the lakes.


Saturday 28th January

My final day in New York was spent at my sister’s apartment, posing for photos that will hopefully become part of a new series of work she’ll be starting soon. I love the fact that we’ll both be showing up in each other’s paintings over the coming year!


In the evening, G, Brian & I went to an opening put on by ISCP resident Laura Fitzgerald, where she showcased a new body of work in her Grandfather’s Manhattan apartment.

It was wonderful seeing Laura’s intricate, beautifully rendered drawings displayed in creative ways throughout the apartment: pieces arrayed as place settings at the dining-room table, and little sketches tucked, half-secretively, into drawers.


It was also a treat getting to settle down and watch some of her film pieces in the study and bedroom, as well as reading some of her own distinctly quirky and philosophical musings pinned up in the apartment’s bathrooms. After Laura’s opening, we all went out for a drink to toast my final night in New York.

I’d like to finish this final NY post by putting up a quote by the New Mexico artist Elizabeth Kay, who recently wrote to me with her interpretation of Lemurian Pole Shift (below), one of the paintings I produced while on the ISCP residency. Liz has been a major collaborator in this project from its inception, & has, in a way, acted as a long-distance creative consultant throughout the entire process – offering thoughts and advice that have continued to have a massive influence on my practice.


Claire Paterson, Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III)

Liz says, ‘Claire, it is a fairly quiet Friday in Santa Fe and a good opportunity to write you as I look at your painting “Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III).” I want to say again that I’m mightily impressed by how you are following through with your ability to take on the New York art scene, weave what you have found there into your myth-finding project and orchestrate some of this into a powerful (big!) painting that is beautiful and disturbing. The beauty of the painting (for me) lies in its luscious colours, your skill at rendering the human form, and the visual counterpoint of those enigmatic lines superimposed on the picture that bring to mind a target, or a game, or a labyrinth.

‘The disturbing aspect is that the subject appears to represent a regression of some sort. A grown man clutching an oversized rocking horse suggests mental disorder. The curious object on top of the horse’s head, like something between a baseball cap and a duck bill, adds an odd and cocky element to the picture.

‘Given the hideous political times we are entering it is tempting for me to see this painting as an image of the dysfunctional, immature, crumpled masculine. Since we can’t see the subject’s face we cannot be certain it actually is a man, though the foot and muscular arms look more masculine than feminine. The figure occupies a shallow red space marked by long black shadows. The red space feels ‘hot’ or ‘burning’, suggesting (perhaps) some quality (mental/spiritual/physical) that is being ‘cooked’ or is in a state of being transformed. The saccrine sweet, vaguely idiotic expression painted on the rocking horse reiterates the impression of an infantile state of mind.

‘Having said all that, I now move to the title of the painting for further clues as to what it might be about.

‘ “Lemuria” (I am now reading on Wikipedia), is believed by some (disproved by science) to be a continent that sunk under the ocean in a cataclysmic change, “such as a pole shift.” For occultists, the idea of Lemuria was flypaper for the imagination. Madam Blavatsky believed Lemuria’s extraordinarily weird looking early human inhabitants to have had highly developed psychic powers, including telepathic communication. According to occult lore, Lemurians migrated to Atlantis, bred with beasts and evolved (or de-volved) into Cro-Magnon people.

‘So there it is… an alternative myth to the standard classics. And I have learned something!’

Quote provided by Elizabeth Kay

I’d like to thank everyone for reading, and for following some of my thoughts throughout the course of my residency. I’ll continue to write on this page, and over the next few weeks will do more posts about my favourite Steven Campbell paintings, in recognition of the fact that this project has been made possible by the very first Steven Campbell New York Scholarship, and Steven’s creative legacy.

New York Week 11


This week I did some finishing touches to my paintings: Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III) and Departure (Drop City BwO).


Claire Paterson, Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Above pose improvised in collaboration with model Celeste Dudley, with papier-mâché mandolin contributed by G. Paterson, diagram/symbol selected by Celeste Dudley, and advice on diagram/ symbol placement provided by Brian McCluskey


Claire Paterson, Departure (Drop City BwO), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Departure (Drop City BwO), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Above pose improvised in collaboration with model Zeke Jolson, with boat sculpture provided by A. Fleming, diagram/ symbol selected by Zeke Jolson, and advice on diagram / symbol placement provided by Brian McCluskey. The title of this work was also produced collaboratively with NY figure model Zeke Jolson.

Other events / highlights from week 11:

Sunday 8th January


Matt Keegan exhibit at Participant Inc.

Today my sister’s husband – the NY painter Matt Watson – took my partner Brian and I around some openings on the Lower East Side. They were all so busy though, that we’ll need to return at some point during the day so we can get a proper look at the work!

Tuesday 10th January


Attended a Tuesday night lecture at the ISCP by Marcus Coates, where he talked about his performances, which employ ‘animal vocalizations and ritualistic public interventions.’

Friday 13th January


Simon Starling: At Twilight

This morning I went to the Japan Society to see the Simon Starling: At Twilight exhibit, a show centred around W.B.Yeats’ play At the Hawk’s Well, which was in turn inspired by Irish folklore and ‘Noh’ – Japan’s traditional masked drama.


After walking through a space containing ethereal masks floating disembodied in the darkness, and an area displaying costume elements, you’re able to find out more about categories of Japanese Noh masks, as well as the different artists, writers and performers associated with Yeats’ play. Simon Starling collates and presents this information in ‘a rich array of associations’ (, and I left the show feeling as if I’d absorbed a lot of new information, and with a desire to read ‘At the Hawk’s Well.’


Iconometry at the Rubin’s Museum of Tibetan Art

Taking the advice of the critic Adam Kleinman, I visited the Rubin’s Museum of Tibetan art in the afternoon and looked into ‘iconometry’ – the prescribed proportions and measurements used by Tibetan artists to lay the features for different deities.

In the evening, I went with other ISCP residents around some more Lower East Side openings, in Salon 94, P! and Alden Projects.


It was particularly interesting seeing an exhibit of Jenny Holzer’s work at Alden Projects, as my sister and flatmates work for her.


Jenny Holzer Show at Alden Projects

Saturday 14th January


Kai Althoff exhibit: and then leave me to the commonswifts

This morning Brian, my sister G and I went to MoMA to see the Kai Althoff exhibit: and then leave me to the commonswifts – a show packed with paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installation elements. We then had a wander around a Picabia exhibit, and took in as much as we could of the massive permanent collection before heading out into the NY snow.


At MoMA, we stumbled across the Rousseau Sleeping Gypsy painting that my sister G’s mandolin sculpture is based on. Her mandolin sculpture is featured as the horse’s hat/bill in my Lemurian Pole Shift painting at the top of this blog.

Sunday 15th January


The Shed Gallery, Brooklyn


Andre Rubin exhibit at the Amos Eno Gallery

Brian and I ended a very busy week by going around some galleries in Brooklyn: the Safe Gallery, Transmitter, Underdonk, and many of the galleries situated at 56 Bogart street.


An exhibit by Lawrence Swan and Mary-Ann Monforton at the Valentine Gallery on Woodward Avenue

A particular highlight was visiting the Valentine Gallery on Woodward Avenue, to see work by Lawrence Swan and Mary-Ann Monforton.

Brooklyn based Lawrence Swan constructs masks and effigies related to a certain archetype that the artist refers to mysteriously as ‘X’. Mary-Ann Monforton creates subtle sculptures that give the impression of weightlessness. I was amazed to hear that this is her very first show, though she’s been producing these pieces for years.


Lawrence Swan at the Valentine Gallery

Brian and I also had an interesting conversation with the very welcoming gallery owner Fred Valentine, who uses the exhibition space as his own studio during the week, before converting it back to a gallery again at the weekend.

To read more about the Valentine Gallery, please visit:

New Year in New York

New York Weeks 9 & 10

01Claire Paterson – pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and sculptural objects contributed by G.Paterson and Maartje Korstanje.

Happy New Year from New York, everyone!

After taking in some NY sights, and seeing in the New Year watching fireworks at Prospect Park with my 3 sisters, we were able to collaborate on some myth-making sessions together (unfortunately Rebecca had to return to Scotland, so wasn’t able to participate this time – but hopefully another opportunity will present itself soon!).

Below are some of the results from the collaborative sessions with G and Emma.

02Claire Paterson – pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and metallic triangles contributed by Robert Picker.

03Claire Paterson – pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson.

04Claire Paterson – pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson.

05Claire Paterson – pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and sculptural objects contributed by G.Paterson and Maartje Korstanje.

Other highlights from weeks 9 & 10 in New York:


Tuesday December 27th

Today Irish resident Laura Fitzgerald hosted the ‘One artist, one work’ event in her studio, where she showed a screening of her performative video ‘Field Research II.’

The piece documented walks Laura took through the countryside in County Kerry, with her utilizing elements from nature to create a performative parody of the contemporary art-world (with sheep being critics, cows artists etc.).


As well as being hilarious, her work also explored in a more serious way issues related to the tension and friction often experienced when artistic life is counterpointed with a return to your own community roots.

Tuesday January 3rd


This afternoon G, Emma and I went to the Kerry James Marshall exhibition at the Met Breuer. The top two floors of the building contained his largest exhibition to date, featuring his monumental narrative paintings. Marshall has a lot in common with Steven Campbell – particularly in relation to his extensive referencing of the history of art, literature and philosophy, his use of parody and humour, and the often sinister undertones contained in the scenes he depicts.


I was also interested in his use of religious iconography, and his incorporation of symbols and various sign-systems into his compositions.

Next week, I’ll  hopefully be posting up some images of finished paintings from my studio.

Christmas in New York


Merry Christmas everyone! Here are some photos from yesterday, of me getting thoroughly spoiled by my sister G and her husband Matt at their Brooklyn apartment.


They bought me a mountain of presents (including an original soft-sculpture artwork made by G, and a huge book on contemporary painting for the studio), then took me out to a French restaurant for Christmas dinner. Even Blue the dog spoiled me by giving me cuddles throughout the day.

Matt’s a very talented photographer, so was able to get some lovely shots of the festivities.


Here are some other highlights/events from this week:

Tuesday 20th December


Today I went to Materials for the Arts – a vast warehouse in Queens that stocks art supplies, material, costumes, and a huge array of random odds and ends.


Above: A display of sculptures at Materials for the Arts, made from objects found in the warehouse.

ISCP staff had arranged for me to have a free session at MFTA, where I had the opportunity to wander the warehouse with a trolley and take anything I wanted, free of charge. I managed to find lots of interesting items to use in my next collaborative myth-making sessions, and ISCP’s Sophie Prince kindly helped me transport everything back to the studio.


I particularly liked this Michael Kelly Williams quote at the entrance to MFTA, that I think is very applicable to the myth-making process and my collaborative photo sessions:

‘I look for materials that draw me to them; that call out. I may be attracted to the pure form but usually it is the energy radiating within the object in an almost animistic way. I have used objects that I view as being loaded with power and beneficial properties as well as remnants of musical instruments which to me still resonate with sound and music. I use materials that are seen as charged with their prior usage and practice.

‘I also collect objects that can be read symbolically, have multiple meanings, or allude to works of poetry or literacy. These collected objects are then repurposed through alteration, arrangement and construction to create assemblages. I see this creative portion as relating to poetry in creating metaphors of meaning as the juxtaposition of materials interact and merge as a whole.’


Above: Some items from MFTA back in my studio

In the evening, I was invited to a dinner party in Manhattan, hosted by Magda Salvesen, wife of the late abstract-expressionist painter Jon Schueler.


I was treated to a delicious 3 course meal, met many of Magda’s interesting friends, and had a tour of Jon Schueler’s studio, which was filled with his beautiful and haunting sky-scapes.


Hunter and his magician’s assistant Mac Tavish

After dinner, Hunter – a fellow Scot – put on a magic show, helped out by his kilted teddy-bear magician’s assistant ‘Mac Tavish’ (to read more about Mac Tavish’s adventures, visit his facebook page: )


Getting shown a coin trick


The rest of the week I spent in the studio, trying to get as much done as possible before all of my other sisters arrive in NY for New Years. I had a break on Wednesday to enjoy the ISCP Christmas party, held in a Brooklyn bar called Topas – where we were spoiled with free food and drink courtesy of ISCP.

All in all, a brilliant first Christmas in New York!