ART / In The Studio: Staying true to type: Or rather not. Iain Gale tries to infiltrate the private world of Simon Patterson

According to Simon Patterson, 'Modern artists don't have studios.' His own is a place where he 'does things in private'. It's not where he makes his art. As for an older generation of conceptualists, for Patterson the idea is more important than the making. So we're in a gallery, with his latest creation.

It's very different from the work with which Patterson made his name. For The Great Bear, he replaced the names on a London Underground map with those of famous people. 'It seemed appropriate to put philosophers on the Circle Line,' he says. For his new piece, Patterson has supervised a team of blacksmiths and volunteers in the creation of a giant typewriter keyboard. It dominates a room otherwise empty but for additional 'keys' fixed at seat level to the other three walls, one for each letter in the logodaedalus's universal sentence, 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.'

General Assembly is immediately engaging. Patterson is concerned not with the semiotics of objects, but of words. Words like those he has printed on the wall above a few of the 'keys': 'China', 'Russia', 'Kurt Waldheim', 'Boutros Boutros'. Patterson's General Assembly is that of the UN: the typewriter a grandstand, the blue and white of the keys the colours of the UN Protection Force. The possibility of political satire is emphasised by other names on the wall - 'Brobdingnag', 'Lilliput'. The viewer questions Patterson's motives for the disposition of these words. He appears to be providing clues to meaning, but we must find our own solutions. 'It's not the job of artists to answer questions. To be didactic would close down the work. I don't want to lose possible meanings. There are different types of taxonomy. This is my choice,' he emphasises, 'but everyone can write their own version.'

To 31 July at the Chisenhale Gallery, London E3 (081-981 4518)

(Photograph omitted)

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