conversation with Sharon Butler *

YG: looking at the work,  two elements jump first,  the structured images and the way you treat the canvases. do you consider them as two parallel layers of information, or are they both part of a bigger idea?

SB: Whether the canvas is carefully stretched over handmade stretchers and obsessively primed, rumpled and tacked to the wall, or bought pre-made, the support (or lack thereof) is integral to each piece.

Brightly Colored Separates 2, 2010, oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

Back in 2010, after years of making my own supports or choosing pre-made materials for conceptual reasons, I made a series of 30 x 40 inch paintings on standard, pre-stretched canvas that took the object out of the equation.

Yellow and silver HVAC (Stencil), 2013
pigment, silica binder, staples, stretchers, on canvas, 18 x 14 inches.

Left with only the image, I realized how important the tension between support and surface was for me, so I returned to stretching the canvases myself. I started thinking more consciously about the process of building, and that led to a new series of paintings featuring  unstretched and ill-fitting canvas with staples on the front. I still use cheap pre-stretched canvases on occasion-- I imagine them as paintings I might find in a thrift shop or at a flea market.

google image

In terms of imagery, I’m generally interested in my surroundings. The geometric shapes in recent work reference the odd rooftop structures and makeshift architecture in Bushwick where I had a studio last year.

Ralston Crawford (American, 1906-1978), Turbine Shafts, Coulee Dam #2, 1971, oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO

I am like the Precisionists, a group of American painters in the early 20th-century who painted the industrial landscape, but the optimism inspired by industrialization and modern progress back in the day is long gone.

Stacked Vent, 2013.
pigment, binder, staples, stretchers and linen tarp. 18 x 12 inches

YG: yes, its about 'the tension between support and surface'. so the third element would be your choice of colors. they appear to be soft but their not actually. more nuanced monochromes than full colors. would you like to comment on your use of color?

SB: I make my paint by combining pigments with a silca binder, which enables me to make very thin but highly pigmented colors. The palette, which I think of as dirty pastel, references the worn out colors of the buildings, streets and walls in Bushwick.

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