No land for nomad
What are exactly are our origins in terms of place, what are we allowed to own as memory, and what personal mythologies do we create to make sense of the role of geography in our past? Our preconceived notions of birthright and place are the subject of this latest series of works by Patrick Altes, which explores our shifting and ambivalent attitudes about belonging, dispossession and migration. When institutional and cultural systems used to define nationality are often illogical, contradictory and excluding, how do we reclaim place as part of a personal heritage, which has no real validity in the present? In this series of paintings, Altes suggests we create an internal atlas, which is beyond control, regulation and censorship. Whilst the ties that bind us to place may have long been severed, we can still romanticize, idealize and fear the loss of a sense of belonging there.
The paintings serve as an imaginary reclamation of a mythical geography of birth right which is fantastical, evocative and surreal. They also refer to scientific genetic mapping as a way in which we can reveal to ourselves the imprint of our evolutionary nomadism. Altes uses biblical and tribal symbolic pictorial vocabulary against a system of mapping and fragmentation to allude to his own emotional fusion of his Franco-Algerian heritage, his Spanish descendancy, his extended wanderings in Africa and South America and the UK. The vibrancy of the paintings is both celebratory yet uncomfortable, asking the viewer to question the nature of his or her own internal and checkered atlas.
Dr Helen Jacey