The Photographers’ Gallery presents Divided Self, a solo exhibition from the multi-disciplinary artist Tom Butler (b.1979, London). The new show surveys the unique hand of the artist, his intervention with vintage photographs and the possibilities to reinvigorate the medium of photography itself.
Using a background in sculpture design and fine art, Butler has manifested an interest in manipulating surfaces, re-framing memories and uncovering hidden psyches. As an artist, he is intrigued by the performative process of concealing his sitters, leading him to bandage, blackout and conceal parts of their identity– hiding them behind humorous, slapstick or even sinister ‘masks’.
Butler is renowned for his ongoing series of appropriated original Victorian ‘cabinet’ cards. These unique hand-painted cards – previously discarded albumen photographs from the mid 19th Century – feature portraits of men and women rendered anonymous by his colourful patterns and forms applied in meticulously detailed gouache, or manipulated through intricate and precise collaging. By removing sections of the vintage cards and inserting modern coloured paper or carefully re-ordering them, Butler reinvents his subjects as contemporary works of art.
These painted interventions express Butler’s natural inclination towards introversion and the opposition of displaying artwork essentially about hiding – producing pock size artworks that muse on the power of the subjective gaze, and suggest ways of challenging visual anaesthesia in an era of sensory overload. For this exhibition, Butler is showcasing his newest additions to his growing family of painted adopted ancestors. Alongside these he will present for the first time new and more experimental 3D pieces, marking a return to his sculptural background, which offer viewers new intriguing puzzles and illusions.