In a negotiation of two painterly languages, British artist Richard Patterson combines carefully rendered oil portraits with passages of abstract painting in a series of new works, to go on show at Timothy Taylor from January 27. The exhibition is the artist’s fifth with the gallery, and his first solo presentation in the US since I’m walking here! at the Flag Foundation in 2014. The paintings in the exhibition have been made in the past 18 months, and draw on the artist’s personal experience and cultural examples of mythic self-transcendence.

Patterson’s complex, multi-layered paintings, sculptures and prints sit firmly within the grand tradition of European and American art. Despite their rich pop cultural allusions culled from film, magazines, music and advertising, Patterson is engaged on a philosophical level with the interconnections of meaning, image and making. His works can be viewed as masks or screens, concealing a melancholy meditation on the contemporary condition. Patterson knowingly employs a battery of techniques, genres and media: self-portraits, ready-mades, photography, painterly streaks and smudges and virtuoso photorealist painting, which all converge in works that reveal the inherently political nature of craft and making.

By giving equal weight to both figuration and abstraction, Patterson purposefully challenges the hierarchical paradigm of painting. If abstraction is charged with the painting over or pushing out of historic painting, then Patterson’s innovation is a shared space where the antecedent and the insurgent are forced into coexistence.

In these new works, “masks” of abstract paint cut through and frame the portraits beneath, alluding to the inherent voyeurism of painting. The sweeping “masks” take the form of computer- generated shapes, which upon close inspection reveal themselves to be immaculately hand- painted. The Romantic treatment of the subjects and the gravitas of oil painting in this contemporary context provide an anchor of nostalgia within our digitally dominated and largely prosaic age.

In the fittingly allegorical painting Dr Soaper (2016), an authoritarian figure, placed within an official setting of an unknown organization, is crowned by an explosion of abstract brushstrokes in place of a head. As another inflection of historical painting practice, The Studio (2016) and Christina by Dutch Door (2016) present figures encased within a frame of abstraction; we are looking at a painting within a painting. In the process we assume the position of an active voyeur.

These iconoclastic –and occasionally absurd - moments in Patterson’s work generate the portals through which the quantum leap can be made from one visual language, and its corresponding psychological space, to the other.

This exhibition coincides with the release of a new publication by Anomie focusing on paintings by Richard Patterson executed between 2013-2016.