Paul Butler, New Old Works
Division Gallery, Toronto is proud to present New Old Works, Paul Butler's third solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition marks a return to a more autobiographical period in Butler's practice; one that finds comfort in the fringe, and seeks to agitate established social, political, and economic principles of the contemporary art world.
For much of his 20-year studio practice, Butler has worked outside of conventional structures of art production by valuing the inherent DIY nature of his process, and the grass-roots communities that have profoundly influenced his practice. Playing host to the Collage Party - a travelling participatory studio - as well as Director of The Other Gallery, Butler uses experimental art spaces as a forum to cultivate ideas in his own work.
Butler's social art practice explores local and personal histories through intense visual conversations. Through engagement and discourse, Butler creates an aesthetic in itself - of interaction and development - within existing social systems that champions the spirit of artist-run culture.
New Old Works is the result of thoughtful, and endlesshoarding, arranging, and rearranging of curated objects and print media. Works in this exhibit include rarely seen collages that revive neglected histories and reframe outsider modes of production. Here, collage is a personal language - a product of the unquiet mind. Depicting details of the artist's childhood surroundings and ubiquitous boyhood interests - hockey, BMX, Heavy Metal - these deeply self-reflexive works transcend the classification of the original work of art. Butler uses the dated, discarded leftovers of popular media to poke holes in mainstream ideologies. Here, the work is created out of a need to collaborate, rather than a desire to reference cultural, institutional or intellectual signifiers. Through collage the artist challenges pre-existing content through various modes of addition and erasure. Finding solace in the middle ground, Butler concurrently plays both outsider and insider.
Located somewhere between the tangible and ephemeral, Butler's practice is linked and strongly influenced by London-based artist Greg Curnoe. Engagement, interdependence, and grassroots exchange ran deep in Curnoe's oeuvre and it was this declaration of community building that drew Butler to him. Butler growing up in Winnipeg and Curnoe in London recognized early the importance of support among art communities. Staying true to regionalist sensibilities, both artists championed their respective arts communities over relocating to larger city centres that were deemed cultural hubs. An avid cyclist, the bicycle is one of Curnoe's most recurring symbols and the vehicle - both literally and figuratively - that Butler replicated to carry out his London bike tour, The Greg Curnoe Bicycle Project in 2011. In Z-MAG (after Marcel Duchamp), we see Butler - like Duchamp - questioning the very notion of what constitutes a work of art. As such, the sculpture references in equal measure the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp, Butler's childhood obsession with BMX and the artist's influence by Curnoe. In bringing together these influences, Butler elaborates on his art practice that inspires debate and exchange with social responsibility at the fore.
Fuelled by a desire to collaborate and support over-looked and under-appreciated communities, Butler's New Old Works encourages a collective questioning of the perceived standards of contemporary practice, inviting alternatives for a more flexible, integrated version of art and art-making.