Diaspora – the movement or scattering of people from the place that they originated from, is, as you can imagine, something that effects an entire spectrum of people. From those who have been forced out of their countries due to conflict or the desire to seek a better life for those they love – all the way through to those who have simply succumbed to wanderlust in a big way; all of these individuals have the potential to comment on the process in a unique and intriguing way. One in particular that has been not just heavily effected by diaspora but arguably defined by it as a process is visual artist Patrick Altes.
Utilising a variety of paint and collage mediums Altes creates work which realises a form of genetic mapping; a way in which he reveals, dissects and lays bare his personal evolution. His work acts as both an exciting example of artistic skill and prowess, refined over many years, and a blueprint by which others could hope to better understand their own heritage and self. His work also presents an outward projection of a sort of internal atlas in both an honest and, sometimes, jarring way. The result is just as much an exploration and examination of self as it is a celebration.
Altes demonstrates a huge empathy with feelings of alienation, as seen in his Etat de Fait 1, but also an understanding that this nomadic feeling of being the outcast can be a liberation of sorts – the inner turmoil that results from the two conflicting emotions in turn becomes the focus of the piece and, by default, its strongest asset.
He is also known for utilising universal, and often mythical, references such as the exile from the Garden of Eden, the parting of the Red Sea and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as seen in his The Hanging Gardens of Babylon 2. This piece in particular uses the gardens as a reference point around which to build upon the themes of transition and displacement in a way that allows people unfamiliar with his background to get a sense and sort of kinship with the artist and the overall narrative of his work.
Altes is, quite clearly, a story teller but also a commentator on the current social and cultural climates surrounding the idea of hybridity and our population being in a constant flux of traditions and inherited traits. In his piece Civilisation Flux, he sets the landscape itself as a stage for our constant forming and reforming of humanity whilst the ground beneath us remains indifferent in its stubborn permanence. This piece in particular adds a philosophical and outwardly looking edge to what could be misconceived as an overly introspective body of work and really is what helps lift Altes up above the ranks of simple, well directed, social commentary to somewhere brave, unique and altogether quite special.