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Summer ahead

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Max Patte is a British-born Wellington artist. Here he takes a moment to talk about learning opportunities, Ridley Scott, and wishing he was on his motorbike.

How have you developed your career?

After Art School in London, I fell almost by happy accident into both film and art restoration.

I viewed these more as learning opportunities, or ways to extend what I had learnt at art school rather than considered career moves. They gave me invaluable insights, experiences and years worth of handed down practical knowledge that I carry with me today. Unwittingly they also gave me exposure to future contacts, collectors, techniques, technologies and business skills that I rely heavily on in my day to day practice.

The restoration work though, which was mainly London based but functioned for a global market, gave me an inside look at the private art scene and how it operates, from galleries, museums, buyers, art logistics and storage to how works are traded and moved around the world. I found every aspect of it fascinating and endlessly exciting.

It took nearly ten years to slowly pry myself away from film and restoration and into my own studio but I don’t regret a minute of it. What I learned in those ten years forms the backbone of my own studio practice.

What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your work?

At the very beginning of my own practice, Ridley Scott came in to see my work, this is when I was working on my first ever series of Lightworks. He walked in the room and went 'Whoaaa, f*ck me that's the coolest thing I’ve seen all day.' That’s definitely a stand out reaction. He’s someone you’d expect to see a LOT of cool stuff on a daily basis. That was a huge encouragement early on.

Who are your biggest influences?

Some of the biggest influences to my own work come from the field of emerging technology, many of which are being pioneered by the film and TV industries. Digital, printing, 3D scanning, virtual reality. I can’t deny though that Instagram isn’t now a huge part of the day to day practice. The ability to consume thousands of random, but interest-specific, images and therefore inspiration/reference/research is massively useful. It’s hard to find anyone doing anything totally original these days but it’s a good way to check you are at least trying.

What does a typical day look like?

I like the start to the day in my studio by myself. It gives me a chance to ease into the morning and kind of set the tone for the day ahead. Be it quiet considered slow monk-like work, or more frenetic, high energy, fast paced noisy machinery based activity. Some days I’m by myself, it’s almost an isolation chamber, other days there are assistants and visitors.

It all depends on the project.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

We bought our 3 year old Beau one of those colouring pencils that have all the colours of the rainbow in one lead (probably not lead but you know what I mean). Can’t I be one of those to save me from having to choose? Deciding on colour is always so hard.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

Usually, I wish I was on my motorbike instead.

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind.

Pffffff, describe colour to someone who’s never seen colour, that’s hard! You’d have to describe it as a feeling. Yellow to me conjures thoughts of warmth, but not heat, happiness, fresh, new beginnings. I’d ask them to imagine an early spring day, mid-morning, still chilly but clear skies. A coffee in the warm corner of the garden, face in the sun, sounds of the world coming slowly to life. Summer ahead.


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