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We, the People © Patrick Altes

We, the People © Patrick Altes

Patrick Altes urges tolerance at Wave of Dreams gallery

A Wave of Dreams gallery is making its mark with its programming of innovative artists in St Leonards. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was intrigued when she walked into its latest show, Tolerance by international artist Patrick Altes. The images are seemingly primitive, simple figures, but the work is complex as he digs deep into his personal history. 

Artists mine their own experiences for inspiration and Altes’ background has shaped his identity and philosophy. Born in Algiers of French/Spanish heritage, he landed, with his parents, in France at the age of four. Labelled with the perjorative term pieds noir – a name given to those living in Algeria under French rule, then migrating to France after the colony’s independence, he “suffered from ostracism” and consequently didn’t feel either Algerian or French. A migrant.

Understandably, that has gone some way to shaping his identity.

Stories 3 © Patrick Altes

Stories 3 © Patrick Altes

Altes’ experience of racism was then compounded when he lived in South Africa during the full frontal of apartheid: as part of French national service, he taught French at a college where the students were mainly older and black, which Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki had also attended. No one could be unaffected by all of that and it has been fundamental in forming who he is.

He wanted to live in the UK – arriving in Hastings via Brighton –  as he views Britain as a more tolerant and open society. The present state of politics in the UK is certainly not lost on him. He hopes that at this time of transition Britain will remain open to people like him.

The images are simple but that rarely signifies simplistic; figures dance, creepers unfurl, images are laid on English country scenes – “a green and pleasant land” with colonial/Brexit overtones; the pictures are mainly flat, colour gives them perspective, some figures look aboriginal; there is collage; some are simple, others complex. Some of his work can take a long time to complete. Things change, he changes, stories change. They are complicated stories and thoughts; about migration, memory, sense of time and transition  – “we are people and we all have stories.”

The Garden of Delights l'amour fou © Patrick Altes

The Garden of Delights l’amour fou © Patrick Altes


There is one called Fragments, colourful, playful, they transform parts of a person, representing fragmented identities. “Migration scatters a person into different pieces, people torn apart, thrown around, form a fragmented cultural identity.”

There is a picture of creepers unfurling, flowers, land masses shifting– “we are all from the same genetic components, and then the continents drifted apart.” We are the same under the skin.

There is a fascinating picture of coffins, an angel stands guard with outspread wings – the angel of death, life or love. Look carefully and there are a couple making love on a coffin – called  The Garden of Delights l’amour fou – mad, obsessive love. He reflects: “Passionate love can redefine and elevate you”. In one image he quotes his wife, Helen Jacey: “Love is the highest form of tolerance.”

Tolerance is the theme of the show. What are we without tolerance? He is steadfast in his opinion that whatever happens here, in the UK, or anywhere where there is conflict, we have to communicate. We need to keep  talking, because if and when the disagreement is resolved, we still have to live together.

Patrick Altes portrait

Patrick Altes.

Altes conducted some workshops with young people, 16-21 year olds. He talked about racism, the suffragettes, voting, tolerance, British values, democracy. At the end he gave them a template, or asked them to draw a person, and for them to say something about tolerance. They only had a few minutes  but he was amazed by how reflective and perceptive the resulting comments were. Some of those drawings are on show at the back of the gallery.

Altes has work in the Museum of Modern Arts of Oran (MAMO) in Algeria and the Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Arts of Algiers (MAMA).

Tolerance until 10 November at A Wave of Dreams Arts Lab, 48 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN36 6DY. Open Thursday-Sunday, 1-6pm. Sundays Meet the Artist 1-6pm.  On Wed 30 October there is a panel discussion on the theme of ‘Tolerance, Migration, Identity’ with Patrick Altes, Nandene Ghouri (journalist and broadcaster) and S I Martin (author and historian).  This is a prequel to Altes’ forthcoming major solo show at the Gerald Moore Gallery, London 19 November-25 January 2020. Tolerance is supported by the Arts Council.

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Posted 11:46 Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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