Curated by Christina Niederberger and John Walter
Karl Bielik, Anna Brass, Bernard Cohen, Ian Dawson, Clare Dudeney, Stephen Farthing, Sheila Hicks, Edward Kay, David Mabb,
Livia Marin, Christina Niederberger, Alicia Paz, Isabel Richert, Koen Taselaar, Diana Taylor, Adia Wahid, John Walter, Toby Ziegler.

ASC Gallery, London 26 March - 23 April 2022
Exeter Phoenix, 30 April - 26 June 2022


Patternicity is an exhibition of painting, textile and sculpture by a diverse group of contemporary artists whose works explore the nature of patterns in their (art)historical, national and gendered dimensions. By operating at the intersections of the formal vocabularies employed by art and craft the exhibited works open up questions about identity, order and chaos, the nature of visual algorithms, and re-engineering genres.

In general terms a pattern is defined as a recognizably consistent and predictable series of related man made or naturally occurring phenomena - either visual, auditory or machine-generated. Depending on context patterns are categorised as decoration, as models and guides, as reliable and repetitive samples and traits, as established modes of behaviour or as beliefs. An understanding of pattern in this way allows scope for transgression and hybridization for artistic practice.

The title Patternicity refers to Michael Shermer’s observation of a tendency to perceive and seek for patterns in meaningless noise due to the way the human brain is wired. Our brains, Shermer argues, “are belief engines: evolved pattern-recognition machines that [...] create meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature.” (Michael Shermer, How We Believe, 2000). Shermer points out an essential survival strategy which favours patterns regardless of their actual presence.

The artists in Patternicity break existing systems in order to establish new patterns. They are using pattern recognition techniques to disrupt familiarity and expand cultural space. In her book The Autistic Brain Temple Grandin describes pattern thinkers as a distinct category with the ability for “a sudden, unexpected recognition of concepts or facts in a new relation not previously seen”. The patterns at stake within Patternicity are memes – or ways of doing things – that include designs, material processes, instructions, recipes and behaviours.

Patternicity brings together artists looking at different characteristics of patternmaking which include pictorial genres such as colour field and history painting, textile and craft conventions such as weaving, and the politics involved in cultural transmission of specific patterns such as the Paisley Pattern, Arts and Crafts or Willow Pattern. One strategy, in often obsessional detail, is to transpose the act of weaving and stitching onto painting and vice versa. These translations lead to some characteristics being lost from the ancestor and new ones being revealed.


Photographs: Ben Deakin