See Your Thoughts Mirrored in the Abstraction of Patrick Alston’s Paintings

Having grown up in the urban jungle, Patrick Alston’s work reflects expression and abstraction. In his latest work, the artist has worked on abstract compositions of balanced polychromatic sequences that allude serenity and chaos simultaneously to the viewer. Ever inspired by the urban aesthetic of airbrushes and unkempt walls of New York, the artist approaches his work with unintentionality and looseness. The artist mentions below how he spends hours drawing with his son whose looseness in stroke is a great inspiration for him. Read below to learn more about the artist, his background and his work. 

Black Boy in A Field of Flowers, 2020, 70”x 90” – (177.8cm x 228.6cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn on Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did art first come into your life?

I was born and raised in the south Bronx. I was not introduced to fine art until relatively late in my teen years, but I have drawn since childhood. Much of the art I did see early on in life came from the likes of graffiti, murals, etc. 

The Last Shall Be First, 2020, 30 x 30 in (76.2cm x 76.2 cm), Acrylic, Ink, Oil, Oil Stick and Tarp on Sewn Canvas, Plastic and Fabric, Courtesy of the Artist

Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies? 

No. Going through schooling I naturally painted the figure as I was in the process of learning. That quickly changed when I began experimenting with abstraction. I fell in love with abstraction while discovering the masters of the abex movement, and began to seek contributions of black artists to this form of painting. There are great discussions regarding representation of artists in gallery and museum settings. My moment in discovering myself in these spaces came about when I came across work from artists like Stanley Whitney, Raymond Saunders, and Mark Bradford. It was then I really delved into working in abstraction. 


The Spook Who Sat by The Door, 2020, 72”x 72” (182.88cm x 182.88cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

What is your process like? How do you begin a work? 

Tough to say. Each painting starts out differently; I have a few ways of beginning a work. I sometimes begin by starting with a scrap of canvas from a discarded painting of mine. In more recent works I have begun my sourcing materials like store signs, banners or tarp that I find on the street. I then begin to lay out and organise a composition of the materials along with fabrics and canvas on the floor. Once I find a desirable composition, I hand or machine sew the fabrics together, stretch the new surface onto stretcher bars, and then begin problem solving (painting).  


Under the Skies Above, 72”x 72” (182.88cm x 182.88cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Walk us through a day in the studio.

I have two studio schedules that work well for me, really early or really late. I enjoy the comfort of silence at night. 1-2am I find is a magic hour, where you enter into a deeper level of consciousness, awareness and engagement with the work. I enjoy beginning my day by doing a bit of cleaning from the prior days’ work in order to get into the flow of things. From then I usually have three or four paintings that I work on simultaneously. Studio days can be anywhere from 6-12 hours depending on how things are flowing. 


Paper Trails No.2, 2020, 60”x 60” (152.4cm x 152.4cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Where do you draw inspiration from?  

The urban environment has always inspired me. Growing up in the south Bronx, the unkempt textures of the streets, walls etc. have always seemed beautiful to me. Now I find much inspiration in my 1-year-old son. I draw with him a lot. His hand is fantastically loose. 

 Through the Midst, 60”x 60” (152.4cm x 152.4cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Tell us about your painting style. How do you pick your color palettes? 

My painting style is very gestural. I don’t always begin with a color palette in mind, but lay down an initial splotch of color and begin working around it. From then it’s a call and response approach to painting, a conversation that color, gesture, form and texture are all having with one another. It’s more of a feeling than a choice when making color selections.


Melody of the Free, 2020, 50”x 60” (127cm x 152cm), Acrylic, Ink, Oil, Oil Stick and Spray Paint on Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Have you seen changes in your work in lieu of the recent pandemic? 

Yes. I recently had a show with Louis Buhl in Detroit titled 80 Days- Trials and Tribulations that was directly influenced by the pandemic. Beginning the series on the first day of Covid lockdown in NYC on March 22, I sequentially tracked my daily mental state by creating one drawing a day until the first phase of the city’s reopening in June. The works were very small and intimate in scale as I began working from home, which in many ways reflected the intimacy of being confined at home with my family. The struggles, tension, love and any other emotion I went through were all packed onto those 12”x12” papers in the show. 

“Memories of Morris Ave”, 2018, 14”x 18” (35.56cm x 45.72c,), Acrylic, Graphite, Enamel, Oil Stick, Spray Paint, Linen and Plastic on Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist

Does your work reference any Art Historical movements? 

I like to think that my work is a revitalization and continuation of the AbEx movement. I think that it’s important to constantly move art forward. With that being said, art runs in a linear timeline that encompasses many references and movements. African Art influenced many of Picasso’s breakthrough styles, which then influenced the abex movement which had influence on minimalism, conceptual art, contemporary art etc. I like to think that my art is just a continuation of that conversation and influence. 


Presence of Mind No.3 (Peace), 12”x16” ( 30.48cm x 40.66cm), Acrylic, Oil, Oil Stick and Pastel on Archival Paper, Courtesy of the Artist

What’s next for you? 

I have a group show currently with Bode Projects in Berlin Germany. Finalizing a few shows and a residency for 2021.

At the end of every interview we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love and would like for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?  

I have a lot of friends making really powerful work at the moment. I’d suggest interviewing John Rivas, Raelis  Vasquez and Ludovic Nkoth, all brilliant artists. 

Souls of Light, 2020, 72”x 72” (182.88cm x 182.88cm), Acrylic, Gouache, Oil and Oil Stick on Sewn Canvas, Courtesy of the Artist