Earlier in the year a curator asked me if there was a limit to the number of my cabinet cards works. I said no, because it felt like I was growing a population of characters that continues to surprise and fascinate me. However, this was a new idea because I realised they were becoming a population or citizenship and more than just an ongoing series of characters. To let the population grow I started imagining an island (of sorts) where they could exist and I could continue to create them. It wasn’t until later in the year that I read H.G. Wells’ ‘Island of Dr Moreau’, where a shipwrecked man is rescued and brought to the shores of a mysterious island populated with beast-men who are created by Dr Moreau in scientific experiments. Wells’ island itself is unnamed, as is its strange population, only
described in the book as: ‘the inhabitants’.
In this exhibition Butler continues to evolve his ongoing series of appropriated Victorian cabinet cards. Painted withbeautifully delicate gouache, each subject is laboriously transformed, being engaged by an inexplicable shape, patternor species. The inherent character of the card, with its clear traces of the passing of time; and the appearance andpositioning of the sitter, prompt Butler to instinctively decide how and where to alter the original object. This seriesintroduces new motifs as well as new treatment of existing motifs, including geometric clouds, bisecting barriers,floral transformations and spiritual exhalations. Butler then pushes them in extremis, where the sitter might beentirely overtaken or conversely their features remain very much apparent. We are treated to a number of workswhere there is clear suggestion of interaction between the subject and a mysterious plane, force or aura, rendering thesubject pre-occupied rather than overwhelmed.
Butler has also introduced renditions of pairs, groups and families alongside his iconic single subjects. Using similarmodes of modification, Butler toys with group dynamics, accentuating isolation or integration. At times sinister andalways nostalgic, the notion of time past is even more evident here. The removal of identities implies death, andvaried motifs within single pieces suggest the different direction that lives of individuals take. Once a group withshared interests, experiences and motivations, one is left to reflect on separation, loss, diversion and fulfilled or unfulfilled intentions.
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