‘In spite of their unearthly strangeness I had a feeling that there was something familiar about them.’ William Hope Hodgson, The Crew of the Lancing, 1914
CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Tom Butler’s third solo exhibition at the gallery.
‘Ensemble’ will include three bodies of work. In addition to Butler’s ongoing series of painted cabinet cards, for which he is most recognised, the exhibition will represent the London debut of two new photographic series. Conveying a fascination with photographic portraiture from the medium’s earliest phases, combined with an enquiry into Victorian Gothic literature, and specifically its tendency to describe the body as liable to ruin, shape changing or re-assemblage, Butler continues to make beguiling, uncanny images.
In ’Ten Elmers’, Butler has collected ten identical cabinet cards in order to work on the same image with various motifs. In doing so, he suggests identities are characterized by embellishment, but also by what remains unadorned. The performative self-portrait ‘Figure’ series adopts a similar strategy. By using a remote-control shutter release and black fabric to mask most of his body, Butler creates images that are determined predominantly by what is concealed, rather than revealed. In his ‘Homunculi’ series, Butler directly references Gothic and alchemical tropes. In contrast to the shrouded ‘Figure’ photographs, Butler combines multiple images of his own exposed body parts to create singular, abject self-portraits.
Taken together, this fascinating body of work is far more revelatory than Butler’s previous canon, elucidating on the body as an objectification of self. The physical transformation of body or body elements renders the subject ambiguous by obscuring its identity, whilst infusing it with disquieting psychological resonance.