Zoom in to Rudi Patterson's 'Africa'

This artist moved from rural Jamaica to run-down Notting Hill, where he painted visions of a more vibrant life

By Google Arts & Culture

Africa by Rudi PattersonBlack Cultural Archives

Rudi Patterson

Born in Jamaica in 1933, Rudi Patterson made his name in 1960s London, where he worked as an actor on stage, TV, and in films. Later in life, he turned to visual art, and became known for his colourful depictions of life in the Caribbean, as well as more abstract works.

Growing up in Duckenfield, Jamaica, Patterson was surrounded by rich forests and imposing mountains. After his education in Kingston, he sailed to Britain, where like many others of the Windrush Generation, he settled in Notting Hill, then a run-down area of London.

It was in small, cramped council flats that the self-taught artist - working from memory and imagination, in gouache, watercolor, acrylic and oil - painted idealised landscapes, lush still lifes, and abstract visions.

His art couldn't be further from his drab, urban reality.

Africa, 1990

This work, named Africa and painted in 1990, depicts a tangle of bird and snake-like creatures, that form a swirling, writhing mass of color and texture.

The outlines of the animals merge with one another, and their feathers and scales blend into other bodies, until the entire canvas is covered, edge to edge. It brings to mind a continent of natural diversity and wondrous creatures.

Looking closer, you can see that the paint has been laid so thickly that the canvas itself has a texture. If you were to touch it, it might feel something like ruffled feathers and smooth scales.

But probably the most impressive part of this painting is the color. Patterson has used just a few paints to make dozens of variations. He's applied them carefully, balancing blues and reds, greens and yellows, and just a touch of dark black.

His pictures of plants and animals have been compared to that of the distinctive, dream-like jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau. While his abstract paintings resemble the Op Art of his contemporary, Bridget Riley.

Patterson exhibited his work throughout his life. By the 1980s his work was being shown in Bahrain, New York and Melbourne. Buyers of his paintings included Freddie Mercury, Andy Williams, Twiggy, and Stevie Wonder.

His final exhibition, Visions of Colour, was held in 2011 in the Effra Hall Tavern in Brixton. He sadly died in 2013, aged 70. But the next year, his first retrospective exhibition was held at the Leighton House Museum, London.

Country Village by Rudi PattersonBlack Cultural Archives

If you liked learning about Rudi Patterson, then why not take a look at some of his other works. Many of which are held at the Black Cultural Archives in Windrush Square, Brixton.

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