A Hell of Patrick Church’s Own Making

Ahead of a solo exhibition at Manhattan’s Wallplay, the up-and-coming British artist shares five of his most emotionally resonant paintings.

Photography by Ty Cooperman

At first glance, the evocative, richly layered paintings of Patrick Church suggest the work of an accomplished artist who has spent decades painstakingly fine-tuning how to illustrate his inner visions. It’s a pleasant surprise to instead meet a radiant 27-year-old who has only worked as a professional artist for two years. “Professional,” however, feels slightly off-kilter when describing the British expat, who eschews art-world archetypes in favor of creating and existing on his own terms.

For Church, this means unleashing his intensely personal visions with zero inhibitions. His prolific output is a love letter to unabashed queerness, the ecstasy of vulnerability, and unwavering love for his husband of three years, Adriel. The alchemy resonates—following the success of “Drive Thru,” a 2018 exhibition of portraits that documented his voyage from London to New York City, he teamed with Opening Ceremony to adorn a limited-edition series of Repetto footwear with his signature visuals. No canvas is off-limits, and lately, clothing has captured his attention: “I’d love to work more with fabric, upholstery, and wallpaper,” he says.

Photography by Ty Cooperman

Church, who is represented by a nascent arts agency helmed by Ty Cooperman and Sienna Berritto, currently has his sights set on mounting another solo exhibition. Called “A Hell of My Own Making,” it features dozens of new works that recount his artistic growth—not to mention the ensuing homesickness, emotional turmoil, and cloud-nine reveries—he has experienced since moving to New York City. It’s easily his most ambitious project yet, as well as his euphoric breakthrough.

His paintings, while strictly autobiographical, are left open for interpretation. Faceless figures, he admits, serve as self-portraits, yet they enable viewers to “project a part of themselves into my work.” By stripping each figure of an outward identity, he democratizes his own queer experience, empowering viewers to empathize with his work. These recurring figures, along with heartfelt, rough sentence fragments (“I look for you in everything”) and cross-outs, perhaps nod to the gouache works of Tracey Emin. Inner impulses to repaint and rewash his works imbues each with electrifying colors and textures reminiscent of New York City’s twentieth-century modernists. Clear symbols emerge: orange evokes the amorous flames of this marriage, while subtle pinks signify his struggle to trounce post-move anxiety with steely resolve. For Church, art is a form of self-illuminating therapy.

Ahead of “A Hell of My Own Making,” which displays at Wallplay in Manhattan from Sept. 5–13, Church sat down with Surface to share five of his most pivotal paintings.

All Over You Part I, 2018
Acrylic on Canvas
48” H x 48” W

“The first time I visited New York, I didn’t know that I’d never go back to my home in London. The city’s energy is so beautiful as we pass around each other, but I quickly noticed how isolating it can feel. I was meeting so many wonderful people but it was all in passing. I was in a new country with the man I love, but felt that I had nothing else. It took time to feel connected and this series became a compulsion to work through my early days in New York.”

Reflections Of You Part I, 2018
Acrylic on Canvas
48” H x 48” W

“I remember moving in with my husband and spending my first months painting all of his clothes while he was at work. He has this kindness to him that I was really falling in love with. I wanted to express that on something intimate like what he wore. On one of the first pieces, I took one of his black leather jackets and sat setting on our bedroom floor spending hours covering it with the small line drawings of him. I loved how infinite the lines looked as they wrapped around him and quickly translated it to canvas.”

Nothing Left, 2019
Acrylic on Canvas
16” H x 16” W

“Painting to me is more compulsion than habit. I often revisit canvases or wash them out and start over, not because I don’t like the work, but because I needed to get something out. This piece is very transitional to me. By exposing part of the original work, it reflects my journey, then and now. My line may not have changed, but I have. Most paintings are a moment in time, but I love the journey that this reminds me of. I wanted to remove the constraints I had given myself as an artist and transition into something new.”

Complete Devotion, 2019
Acrylic on Canvas
40” H x 40” W

“This painting was inspired during a visit to Paris. I was in this beautiful city I knew well from growing up in Europe, but it was one of the first times being away from my husband and everything felt different. It made me emotional to the point where all I could think of was how I needed to get back to New York so I could express how bittersweet the isolation felt. I wanted to start exploring my line and color in a more chaotic way, which is evident in this piece.”

A Hell of My Own Making, 2019
Acrylic on Canvas
70” H x 48” W

“This painting was one of those perfect moments where I lost myself completely in the making—it poured out of me. I remember working through it so quickly and stepping back not really knowing what I had done. I knew instantly that it was one of my favorite pieces I have ever created and would focus my next show around it.”

“A Hell of My Own Making” will display at Wallplay, 117 Beekman Street, Manhattan, from Sept. 5–13. 

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