Butler’s nuanced whisperings on Africa’s futuristic mindscapes

By  Prisca SamDuru

HIS artistic expression is unique, having so much depth of perception and interpretation such that there’s no one in his space. He is Victor Butler, a leading international artist from Ghana who is showcasing exceptional works for the first time in Nigeria. The exhibition titled ‘Nuance’, doubles as his very first  solo outing in 30 years.

Sponsored by Access Bank and Veuve Clicquot, ‘Nuance’ curated by SMO Contemporary Art, opened to the public at Temple Muse, Lagos on November 1, 2018 and runs till December 7, 2018.

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The highly anticipated solo exhibition which took two years to put together,   showcases 23 paintings on canvas and two prints. Five of Butler’s works are on display at SMO booth, at the Art X Lagos. Butler’s works draw viewers into his multilayered landscapes of myriad perspectives, subtly referencing traditional narratives in surreal spaces influenced by mathematics, science and natural history.  Nuance is a one-of-a-kind journey of discovery into Butler’s world, exploring the meaning of community, culture, time and space in addition to permanence versus relevance.

Born 1964, Victor Butler  is a self-taught artist with over 30 years of studio practice. “I started drawing between 3 and 4 years. I remember that between 6-8 years, every year my school would put my works in one classroom for parents to view because they said I was drawing way above my age…” the artist commented on his journey as an artist.

His works have been exhibited internationally including in Canada, England, France and the United States. He studied medicine and has worked at the cutting edge of auto mechanics, information technology, and furniture design. His  impressive painting technique and deeply philosophical approach to life is evident in his surrealist style and subject matter.

‘Nuance’  presents the breadth of the artist’s signature surrealist style, celebrating relationships on the personal, family and community levels. Butler speaks to the soul and identity of African communities as they draw on ancestral roots within futuristic mindscapes which reference cultural identity and traditions vis-à-vis the need to preserve and conserve the natural world.

The exhibition title resonates in all the works showing. It is a case of the more you look, the more you see. Figures or forms not visible initially, become vivid on a closer look and then take a different shape when viewed from a different angle. “Offsides”, an oil on canvas painting of a football game; “Shelter”, “Guidance of the Night”, “The Iroko”, etc, lend credence to works with high optical deception.

In “Witnesses” for instance,   Butler paints an abstract sea of faces with interwoven eyes, each fixing their stare on the same scene but with different interpretations, looks, and depth of reasoning;   some faces appear complete, while others have either one or two eyes missing or altogether lack the ability to speak in mouth-less faces. In “Interrupted”  we see the subtle dynamics within a group of six women dressed identically, casting questioning looks in the same direction, as if disturbed in mid-sentence.

Butler is able to capture the subtle power struggle in these different scenes and groups, through nuanced expressions revealing the intricacies and complexity in people’s interpretation of the same thing.

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Butler who speaks about the peculiarity of “objectivity and subjectivity within the mind and soul of the community” which he explores on each canvas, stated that technology is fast changing our sense of community.

“We are excited to showcase Victor Butler’s work for the first time in Nigeria at two venues, Temple Muse and at the Art X Lagos fair,” said Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, the Founder and Artistic Director of SMO Contemporary Art. “The complexity, sophistication, and subtle depth of Butler’s art definitely sets him apart as an African Master.”

“Butler’s fantastic art also cross references the evolution of African design in a very futuristic way, commented Avinash Wadhwani, Director of Temple Muse. “Nuance fits perfectly into both visual art and contemporary fashion as Butler’s futuristic designs and forms resonate with a renaissance creative community in Lagos and beyond.”



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