CHARLIE SMITH london is delighted to present Tom Butler with his first one person exhibition at the gallery, following extremely successful debuts at Volta Basel and THE FUTURE CAN WAIT where he was placed in world class private collections.
Butler is most recognised for his ongoing series of painted calling cards. Used widely from the mid-19th century after the invention of albumen prints by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, the cabinet card remains a familiar visual object. Butler relentlessly collects these cards and works over the surface in immaculately rendered gouache. His unique and technically consummate approach makes him a leading proponent in this genre.
Balanced delicately between beauty and the grotesque, Butler works seamlessly over the faces of the sitters, where they become overtaken by hair; feathered or mottled surfaces; and more recently bandages or geometric patterns. Occasionally features of the subject remain unpainted, asserting the presence of the subject from beneath some parasitic growth that appears to emanate from within. There are clear allusions to a visualisation of the unconscious where the monstrous becomes apparent. Contemporaneous to the use of cabinet cards were the psychoanalytical theories of Freud and the high point of public interest in freak shows, and Butler recalls these areas of interest simultaneously.
Butler uses the same technique with etchings and postcards. The compositions of these appropriated images are more complex, which encourages the artist to express a macabre sense of humour, revealing a satirical approach towards art historical, religious and domestic scenarios. Throughout, anonymity is forced upon the subjects where the artist denies their identity with the assertion of his own imagination.
'Casco', 2013 Gouache on Victorian Cabinet Card, 16.5x11cm
'Field', 2013 Gouache on Victorian Cabinet Card, 16.5x11cm
'Holmes', 2012 Gouache on Albumen print 22.5x15cm
'Mr Fortune', 2013 Gouache on Albumen print 16.5x10.5cm
'Parkinson', 2013 Gouache on Albumen print 16.5x10.5cm