Anna McNay

Book Review of Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives


Life-changing Art, Art changing lives

Published by Sampson
Low Ltd, 2013

“Life is a delicate balance. Drift in a perfect bliss of
ignorance and you can find your personal Nirvana or find yourself lost.
Structure our unpredictable lives and we harness our potential, achieve
greatness or send ourselves to the edges of insanity.”

With this thought in mind, Alban Low set out on a unique
project: he sent a proposal to 1000 artists and authors, asking them to analyse
their lives and try to describe the personal systems which they employ to help
them function at work and at play. The response he received was overwhelming
and spanned poems, sculptures, collages, paintings, photographs, prose, and
mini manifestos. 60 of these are now available for consideration by a wider
public, in the resulting book, Patternotion:
Life-changing Art, Art changing lives

The book is split into two sections: the first containing
the contributors’ systems, and the second containing the results of an
experiment whereby nine of the contributors were asked to interpret and follow
nine of the systems proposed by nine of the other contributors. The results are
curious, and the interpretations very free – so much so that it makes me wonder
how the proposers felt upon seeing their systems employed in such a different
way. Having first been asked to bare their souls, it seems almost like a
psychological rape, yet in these cases there was full consent, since the
initial sharing was willing and voluntary.

Only two of the systems proposed make reference to religion
(Patten Smith’s God’s Script and Gary
Evans’ and Veronika Cerna’s A prayer like
any other…
), and one offers up a modern day memento mori (Shona Davies’ and
Dave Monaghan’s Wheel of Misfortune)
in the form of a steely water wheel with miniature hospital scenes filling the
gap between each spoke, confronting viewers with “vision[s] of their potential

Dreams play a role in Mike Russell’s drawn call to record
them and Melanie Ezra’s written response, and memories and mindfulness are also
brought to the table. Decisions, attempts to change, and, unsurprisingly, New
Year’s Resolutions (Ella Penn’s Two
little words
) form a basis for a number of the systems, and Robert Good’s
flowchart (No Way) would perhaps be
closest to my own largely imperfect system, currently in the process of being
replaced by the motto “do, delay, delegate, dump.”

The system which made me smile the most was Catherine Steele’s
Collected Philosophies of Jubilee
, and, for anyone else who remembers the Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen song, it will probably have
the same effect.

Overall, Patternotion
is a charming little book, full of idiosyncratic responses, and soul-baring offerings.
Some entries speak to me, others don’t. But, as Low concludes, “Patternotion is not a dramatic ‘do or
die’ ultimatum of course, it is just a book. Read it though and the ideas
inside could influence the next chapter in your life.” Who knows? Give it a

Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives is available on amazon


Patternotion: Life-changing Art, Art changing lives

Book cover 

© Sampson Low Ltd

Gary Evans and Veronika Cerna

A prayer like any other…

© the artists

Shona Davies and Dave Monaghan

Wheel of Misfortune

© the artists

Robert Good

No Way

© the artist

Harvey Wells

My aim for 2013 is to be more mindful

© the artist