Christian Butterfield works at the intersection of painting and mass media. He situates his subjects within an abstract aesthetic incorporating collage elements. Using Time magazine as a source, he embeds text or image extracts into the painting to comment, often with humour or sarcasm, on contemporary society.
In his early portraits, Butterfield subverts the traditional poses and garb of his subjects by morphing them into otherworldly forms. He introduces clusters of geometric shapes that become a part of the figures’ anatomy. His work has since become increasingly abstract, characterized by a distinctive tactile and sculptural use of paint. Elements of the human body, such as the neck, shoulder, or eye, become inseparable from geometric patterns and futuristic shapes.
His layered compositions are influenced by the use of collage in Dada and Surrealist movements. The chosen words and images of the collage elements act as signifiers in relation to his abstract subjects. Beginning with his Cheeks series, he introduces painted strips over the text that are suggestive of bars on a jail cell in reference to media censorship, prompting the viewer to consider what the media is suppressing.
The ongoing series of Apology Flowers are tokens of his apologies to friends, lovers, and acquaintances, originally emerging as personal gifts. Through these works, the artist expresses reconciliations in his relationships within the context of the cultural, social, and media influences that manifest in his personal life.
Butterfield is a collector of events. Obsessed with newspapers and magazines, he started collecting images and texts from a young age. These graphic elements are integrated as visual fragments into his compositions and provide a window into the subjects he contemplated while making the work. He includes art historical references to such painters as Picasso, Rothko, and Chagall, revealing the breadth of artistic influences felt in his work.
Butterfield, who is largely self-taught, was awarded a place at the AKIN Studio Program at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, and has been represented by Corkin Gallery since 2018. In the fall of 2021, Corkin Gallery will present the first solo exhibition of his work.