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Jason Butler, “Right Here”, 2021

Pop-Up Exhibition, Jersey

July 12th 2021

Jason Butler, “Take it There”, 2020-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)


For the past year, Jason Butler ‘s large abstract paintings have evolved beyond the array of colours and forms we have come to know as his language. Following an exhibition last year of expansive field paintings, sometimes as single works, other times as two- or three-parts panels, he began to reflect as only a serious artist can. What are the organising tenets of these works? How do the amassed collective body of colour and form hang together; where does their surface tension come from?

Jason Butler, “Singing in the Rain”, 2020-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)

As part of this deeper reflection, he began last winter to make gouache and collage on paper, playing with these very forms and colours intuitively in a reduced scale, on a unified format that suddenly acted like a lens closing after shooting only in wide angle for a period of time. This combination of free-thinking analytics about the building blocks of his large scale works with the capacity to make many sequential works, like individual frames of a moving film ¾ suddenly generated a manifest group of works, of uniform small size, which can be read as a sequence that suddenly illuminates his highly distinctive method.

Studio’view, Jersey,
On the wall: “Untitled”, Triptych, Oil on linen, 1,57 cm x 2 meters each

These collages appear then like an alphabet or a typology, or the variations available with a collection of Lego, or building blocks where a myriad of solutions can be found by simply moving and rejigging the visual accumulation of these torn parts. Before you know it, there are rows and rows of these collages and suddenly the logic and inner composition of Butler’s large-scale works seems clear in a new way. As if the skin of the fish has been removed to reveal the intricate meaty flesh with its elegant bones.

Jason Butler, “Collage No. 16”, 2019-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)
Jason Butler, “Collage No. 20”, 2019-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)


In this now expanded sequence of small works, each the same size as its neighbour, we see something else very musical in the evolution of what might have been just an exploratory exercise but in its being likened to a sketch book with accumulated uneven shapes and colours, it has emerged as a kind of dictionary of his content driven abstraction. The vernacular here is particularly his; we can clearly read it. These collages are engaging, sometimes comic, sometimes merry, each has a purposeful quality that comes when a very good creative force is present, approaching a serious concern with levity and open-handed candour.

Jason Butler, “Collage No. 2”, 2019-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)

When I first visited this studio overlooking the port of Jersey, he was painting in a way that presented figures tucked into the ground as if they were part of a picture that was both enigmatic and incomplete. It felt as if they were passing through in a rather fleeting tempo that couldn’t hold the eye; while the progression of planes he settled around them vibrated with meticulous calm. No matter how I tried, these works never settled before my eyes, but felt like a passage to something firmer and stronger. 

Jason Butler, “Collage No. 3”, 2019-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)

In these years of pandemic, the paintings have solidified into coherent and discrete territory that reveals a new way of thinking about abstraction. This territory is as fresh as it is vibrant; surprising the viewer with its eclectic and personal approach to building the surface of a painting. The collages by contrast offer a short hand for Butler’s process and open the door to how he sees the inner world of these larger luxurious paintings. Having them splayed out on the wall is a wonderful feast, a banquet in fact. The eye is hungry for such moments of playful diversion especially in this time. This is his summer gift to us all.

Jason Butler, “Collage No. 5”, 2019-2021, Gouache and collage on paper, 26 x 20 cm (unframed), 42 x 37 cm (framed)