Tag Archives: Abstraction

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler: Part Two

Bradley Butler

Detail of Inner Interior (2012)

I have always been attracted to a darker palette. Muddy colors, mixing lots of black and white with my colors, using copious amounts of India ink and powdered charcoal… This led me down a path of slightly grey, almost “dim” work that masked the color that was present in my paintings. For a while, I was trying to mask this color as a way for people to discover it as they stared into the surface. Images and colors would show themselves after your eyes adjusted to the darkness on the immediate surface. You would begin to notice that it wasn’t a flat black or grey you were looking at but a rich grouping of blues, reds, browns and greens.

Bradley Butler

Detail of Sliding Frame of Reference (2011)

Bradley Butler

Detail of Underneath The Expanse (2012)

My work as of late has been a reveal of the colors that were always there but were just hiding beneath the surface. I still “muddy up” the palette and most likely, will always do that;  but more color—vibrant at times—has been showing up in my compositions. I see my recent work (March–October, 2014) as a refined approach to color and also to mark-making. Using brushes I have not picked up in years, leaving marks I would have otherwise covered in the past, and trying to think differently about the way I begin a painting. These are all ways in which I have “forced” a change. Other natural changes have resulted from this as well.

studio shot bradley butler

Two new 30in x 30in canvases are in the works in the studio.

detail of new work by Bradley Butler

Detail of 30in x 30in painting in progress

The paintings have become more consistent, and I feel, more impactful. There are still subtle and understated areas but they pack more punch now… The mystery and depth I am after is still there and will always be there (I hope), but with a new palette. I still use the same colors, I just mix them differently and set different expectations for myself. The colors I use are Golden Brand acrylics because that’s what Kathy Calderwood told me to use when I took her class in college. I use cadmium red, napthol red, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue (green shade), ultramarine blue, titanium white, and mars black. At times, additions or substitutions are made but that happens rarely.

Bradley Butler

My current palette as I work in the studio. This is a popular mix for me lately: ultramarine, pthalo, and cad. yellow with varying degrees of black and white… I also let the colors run into each other to see what happens!

Part three in this series will be coming soon. Until then, stop into the gallery to see The Opposite of Concrete where six of my paintings are featured, along with great work by 4 other talented artists.

Read part one of Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler, here.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler: Part One

Bradley Butler

The studio just before bringing these paintings to the gallery. Pictured (L to R) “The Impossibility  of Understanding”, “Intentionally Losing Direction”, and “The Mirage of Truth”.

Preparing for this exhibition, for me, was a multi-faceted experience. Being both the gallery director and also 1 of 5 exhibiting artists, I found myself feeling many different things. Even though I was concerned with the way inclusion of artwork by the gallery director would be perceived; I was excited to host an exhibition featuring abstraction as the unifying conceptual theme on the main floor.

Abstract painting has been the most direct way for me to communicate visually with an audience. It affects me on the most primal level and allows for a contemplative and direct connection to my deepest thoughts in the studio. When painting, I am sorting out my thoughts and beliefs, processing world events, and also cultivating a visual language. I am constantly experimenting with different approaches to achieving images that are thoroughly “worked” and wrought with a fury of brush strokes, washes of fluid paints, and linear scratches of charcoal and conté crayon.

Bradley Butler

Detail of “Intentionally Losing Direction” while in progress.

For this exhibition, I knew I wanted to have an entirely new set of paintings and I had already begun working towards my current frame of mind in the studio. On January 1, 2013, I began working on new paintings in a new studio for the first time in 8 months (My wife and I bought a house, I had 3 jobs, and no time…). This was a very important time for me and I experienced a renaissance of artistic activity that was lacking from my life. I began to make a body of work that was distinctly different from my MFA thesis body of work from 2010, while still working within the confines of an overall aesthetic I had developed. Realizing this, I pushed on and continued to evolve as an artist. This is still happening and I couldn’t be more excited.

Bradley Butler

Six paintings on paper, part of the “Planes of Existence” series. Three of these are included in the exhibition.

The paintings featured in  The Opposite of Concrete are my most recent. They represent the direction I am heading in as well as my chosen format for the foreseeable future, or at least for a while… I have come to realize that working within a structural standard (30in x 30in canvases and 6in x 9in or 9in x 12in works on paper) takes my mind off of questions like “how big?” and “vertical or horizontal?” I am able to focus on the composition and the development of a more refined color palette, as well as a larger repertoire of the lines and shapes that make up my images. The intuitive manner in which I work usually dictates the direction I end up taking with my paintings. It is an adventure without a specific plan and that is both exciting and frightening! Making formal decisions about the surface or color palette is the only control I allow myself to have. Everything else after that is a chance encounter with brushes and pigments…

Bradley Butler

Detail of “The Mirage of Truth” while in progress.

You can see more images from my studio on Instagram.

Read Part Two of Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler, here.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by ceramic artist Samantha Stumpf.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Sarah Sutton

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

I am originally from the central Appalachian mountain region in northeastern Pennsylvania. My ancestors on both sides were immigrant coal miners from Eastern Europe. The area I grew up in now rests over flooded and burning mines and is surrounded by abandoned coal breakers and shake piles. This industrial world that had once meant so much for so many people was, to me, a dead metaphorall around and underneath memeanwhile life went on.

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This intermeshing of worlds and realities continues to inspire me. I am specifically interested in how people internalize and pass on socio-historical traumas through generations, such as the Knox coalmine disaster in 1959. In a single day, illegal mining broke through the riverbed, wiping out the local anthracite coal mining industry. Decades later the consequences of that single day are still palpable- in the landscape as well as in the people who once inhabited it. Through the paintings in this body of work, I create a visual language that depicts the complexity of perceptionhow historical and internal experiences interweave and intertwine.

In this blog entry I am going to explore three thoughts on representation and abstraction and address how I see these categories as changing in the digital age; a conversation that greatly affects my work.

1. Excess and Overload as Abstraction

Typically, abstraction has been associated with reduction or abbreviationreducing something to its “essence”. However, I am interested in a different kind of abstraction. When there is an overload of information as with media saturation we do not process a “whole” or “essence” at all. The sheer quantity of images and objects creates a type of pattern-based processing, making it more difficult to focus on individual components and promoting more of a time-based processing. This is explained by Jeffrey Rian in the article, The Generation Game:

 A child born into the electronic age learns his or her way into the world under the influence of disembodied voices and images, piecing together a world in collage pattern that absorbs ‘everywheres’ and everywhens’ into a cacophonous present. With electronics, sensory life is made more complicated because of the abundance of unrelated sounds and images… Experiencing free floating and unanalyzed images, which are integrated as tactile experiences, may offer a level of familiarity, or low level stimulus that engenders a variety of memories…

-Jeffrey Rian (The Generation Game)

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

2. The Visibility of the Invisible

Spaces that once only existed as imaginary are all over the Internetfrom hidden corners of the Amazon, live broadcasts of acts of terrorism, webcams of outer space, to videos of surgeries showing the intricacies of the internal body.

After the advent of photography, painting began to explore the notion of the “unknown”internal worlds, complex and amoebic states, and images of the “otherworldly and surreal”. Since almost everything can be “seen” online, it has become more and more difficult to imagine the “unknown” as a singular image.

In my work, painting becomes a way to envision relationships that are seemingly impossible to imagine (even and especially on the internet), because they involve time, different perceptual and sensory information, and the subjective. Ultimately, I am interested in making an image that captures how internal experience and memories are projected onto the external worldwhich becomes personal and involves both recognizable and non-recognizable imagery.

Supplies in the studio

Supplies in the studio

3. Legibility of Illegible

In his book, Six Stories from the End of Representation, James Elkins contrasts the use of the blur in art to what it means in astronomy. Where artists often intentionally blur to obscure an image, astronomers look at skies full of blurs that have never been seen “in focus”. In fact, the paradigm of being “in focus” or legible vs. “out of focus” or illegible does not apply when looking at the sky, as sharpening can cause a loss of information. By moving pixels closer together or turning the lens to focus on one area, contours and shapes that exist in the spaces in between are lost. In this case, the quality of being out of focus leaves the register of human perception all together, and clarity does not necessarily mean seeing something better. I am interested in the paradox of making information less legible, less recognizable, and less reliant on gestalt principles in order to expand on ways of seeing.

 

See our previous post: A Studio Visit with Sarah Sutton