I have always been attracted to the material characteristics of painting and the way colour is applied to the canvas to create different textures and the illusion of depth. In an abstract canvas, these nuances and visible gestures tell the history of the painting, often times triggering our own subjectivity to reveal miniature landscapes or portraits hidden within the composition. Butler’s paintings play with this uncertainty of form and teeter on the line between figuration and abstraction as if trying to reveal something to the spectator. Whilst some canvases are more abstract than others, Butler’s paintings are like windows that invite our own subjectivity to decipher the composition, colour and form and find out what they mean to us.
Working form his studio in London, Richard J Butler carefully constructs these highly textured canvases by imprinting large packing blankets, layer upon layer, on wet paint with grated pastel, a technique that he has developed over the past seven years. As you look closely at the paintings, the author’s hand is evident but does not seem forced. There is a sense of freedom of movement through the visible fluid gestures and manipulation of paint.
What I really enjoy about Butler’s paintings is how the use of pastel creates a kind of sfumato technique, which blends all the colours together beautifully, invoking an oneiric yet hazy vision, in which shapeless figures appear from the depths of the canvases. The almost hallucinatory colour fields tout a sense of both formlessness and weightlessness as colours seamlessly fade in and out of another, which plays into beautiful contrast with the physicality of the work itself.