Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meet Your Maker: The Brothers Butterworth

Daniel Butterworth. Matthew Butterworth. The Brothers Butterworth. Two great artists that just happen to be brothers. I've been intrigued about the Butterworth boys for some time as they come with a bit of a reputation. Everyone loves them. When I told people they were exhibiting there was a truly palpable sense of excitement. I get people coming straight up to my desk to ask - 'So, where are the Butterworth paintings?' - even before they walk into the gallery spaces. When I sent out the media releases I got one email straight back from a magazine that said something along the lines of 'Wow, I love these guys - tell me more and we'll let everyone know about it'.

So with a lead-up like that, you know there's something amazing on the way. And true to form and expectation - bang! They delivered. 

I've been shooting emails back and forth with both artists individually, probing them on aspects to their practice and ideas, and brought it together in the following interview, for your enjoyment. With the same passion that's poured into their art, they turned out some great insights for us.  

Daniel Butterworth, Pile up

Hey Matt and Dan! First, I wanted to ask about the way in which you guys exhibit as a pair. The work we have at Stockroom is a big, bold painting show and there's some relationships across the works, but there's also a sense of individuality for each of you. Daniel, you've got a series of still-lifes using crushed cans that envelopes the space and borders on the figurative - as if the cans are standing in for human subjects. And Matthew, you've got an epic landscape painted on panels, propped up at the far end of the space, drawing reference from Australian art-history while being painted in a much more contemporary style and presentation. How do you go about planning, arranging and curating your shows as a pairing of artists?

Matt and I know each other very well and have always trusted each other in the choices we make. When we first got together with the Stockrooms and it was decided that we would have an exhibition, had you said that the human form would not be seen, I would have laughed at you. Matt phoned me one night and said that he might do some landscapes for the show, and I replied with the idea of wanting to paint some still lifes. From there it grew into what hangs on the walls at the Stockrooms. Matt and I have always complemented each other with our hangs. I believe that it is because we understand each other and when all is said and done we are very similar people.

Matthew: "I have no idea what Dan has written, hopefully the complete opposite to me to really mess your editing process. I've just packed my pipe full of tobacco, poured a drink and rested my glass on a first edition copy of Hardy's 'Tess of the Durbervilles', now question one, let me see (thinking pose.....)."
This is probably the first show whereby Dan and I have not seen each others work prior to the hang.  In the past we have either worked together on the one body of work (painting on the same images), or worked separately and kept each other in touch with our own progress.  We've never said we would remain committed to anyone of these approaches, we just do what we need to to get an awesome show up- hopefully we have done this time around.  I must say, i really enjoyed the mystery around this show-(a throw back to my ScoobyDoo days) I loved not knowing what Dan was up to, I mean I knew he was painting cans but I hadn't seen them (I wondered if he was using this term as a breasts reference, I was wrong), and he hadn't seen my stuff.  We would talk on the phone, but hey not like seeing the stuff first hand.  I think for our next show I just might copy all of Dan's work, just to mess with buyers and stuff, people love to compare our work (it's only natural) so this would just mess with them.

Matthew Butterworth, Bush Burial (detail)

You've both used unusual foundations for you work - brown paper and door panels. Could you tell us why you're drawn to these materials to paint on?

Working on paper has always been a love of mine. When I stumbled on the paper I am currently using it worked for me. When paint was applied it didn't suck the oil out and the application of the paint was smooth and fast.But what I really enjoy about the paper is that I no longer feel precious. When I painted on canvas it could of been up to a week preparing and making it, so before I had put any oil on it at all I had committed so much time to it. Now I enjoy when I am so psyched I can keep painting, just rip off another length and keep going. So it is the instantaneous   and availability that it brings to my work that attracts me to it.

I've painted this work on 3 door panels for a few reasons, unfortunately most of them pretty practical ones.  I love Jim Morrison, and see him as the messiah, hence the three reference ... ha ha!
Primarily I love the surface, pre-primed board, slick and ready to paint. They are cheap and perfect proportions for this piece. I love the way they just lean against the wall, like a Richard Serra only not rusted metal and extremely masculine and dangerous.
In saying this I never limit my materials to a limited number of choices ie: canvas, paper and board. I let the idea dictate the execution, if I think I should paint with coloured sand, or letters written to my hot school-teacher when I was in year seven, then that's what I will use. It's just that in this case these door panels really suited my needs, and hey, in the end I could renovate my house with them.

Daniel engaging an enthralled audience

There's a palpable sense of energy in both of your painting styles. A freshness of brushstrokes, a freedom in the application of the oils and acrylics, a vibrancy. What is it about the act of painting, and the choice to use painting as an artistic medium, that keeps you motivated and keeps you striving to produce new works?

Having the paint slide around on the paper, understanding what will happen when I put that colour on top of that. When I nail a painting, paintwork is a big factor. I have always painted wet into wet. Knowing it could all turn to mud in a second is exciting and it also pushes me to work faster. I very rarely get the need or want to explore different media but when I do, I feel that the idea would be better had I used oils on paper.

Why paint? This is a hard one to answer, there's just something unbelievably seductive and inviting about paint.  I guess the best way to describe it is that I get lost in it, I love that feeling when I make a mark (a painted mark) that works I feel amazing, makes me sound like a wanker but it's true.  When I paint the figure, I love the way you can play with flesh in paint, oil lends itself to the rawness, the colour changes and feel of skin.  I love under painting in acrylic, I work fast, bold and more recently I under paint with a shock of colour, then work over the top in oil and see what under painting remains.  I'm really interested in my subject matter (a figure, the landscape etc) and I'm interested in how to use paint as a vehicle (I've forgotten where I was going with this, Michael Jackson is on tv and he distracted me - bloody Jackson and all that moon walking) any way - I love paint and expect to do it for as long as I live, even if I went blind, I would still paint - it's is so sculptural you could just manipulate it with your hands.
Hmmm... Maybe I should paint a portrait of MJ? What period though - Off the Wall for sure.
"Ok now to question 4:
I started painting when I was 4 years, 3 months and 2 days.  I remember catching a glimpse of a Caravaggio at the Louvre, we were in Paris on a family holiday, on our way back to Italy. We went there every spring to catch the change of colours on the outskirts of Rome.  I remember we ate pate and drank sparkling rainwater, my sister commented that it tasted like the sweat of angels ..."

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Ha ha! What a treat it was to interview Matt and Dan. Their work is on the walls of Gallery 1 at Stockroom until 8 July, so if you haven't swung by yet, please come on down and see what all the fuss is about. And support the arts and the artists - buy a piece!!