Gallery Weekend at Corkin Gallery / September 25, 2021, 2 – 3 pm
This year, the Contemporary Art Gallery Association decided to participate in the international event Gallery Weekend. From September 23-26, contemporary art galleries extended programming and gallery hours, presenting exhibitions and an opportunity to connect with Toronto’s art scene, categorizing three routes: Junction Triangle, Wallace Emerson and Lower Toronto.
The first ever Gallery Weekend Toronto included largely self-taught artist Christian Butterfield’s debut solo exhibition, Green Light. This exhibition was held at the captivating Corkin Gallery, in the heart of the Distillery District. Green Light portrays the evolution of an early career artist, revealing an exploration of human relationships through mass media, popular culture, and a fascination with the human body. This exhibition’s journey travels from abstract portraiture collages (made from analog media) to surrealist landscapes, informing work that is both strident and controlled, mysterious and surprising. Green Light is comprised of works from Butterfield’s Cheeks and Cold series, Apology Flowers, as well as two new monumental paintings.
Installation view of Christian Butterfield’s Green Light at Corkin Gallery. Courtesy of Corkin Gallery
In conjunction with Gallery Weekend, Corkin Gallery facilitated the exhibition’s roundtable discussion. Christian Butterfield spoke with artist, writer, and curator Anique Jordan, art historian and U of T Professor Dr. Sarah Stanners, AGO’s Assistant Curator Dr. Renata Azevedo Moreira, and gallery owner, Jane Corkin. This discussion was free of charge to the public, and gave Toronto’s arts enthusiasts’ a deeper insight into the deliberation and inspirations of the artist.
L-R: Artist, Anique Jordan (who attended virtually on that screen), Dr. Sarah Stanners, Christian Butterfield, Dr. Renata Azevedo Moreira, and Jane Corkin. Photo: Georgia Gardner
In this discussion, Butterfield disclosed that each of his paintings are a reflection of someone he was thinking of at the time, as he recalls his relationship with that given subject, whether that be a family member, friend, current, or former partner – using past conversations and words gone unsaid. He admits he does not ask permission before starting a specific work, and he does not necessarily want to reveal the identity of that given person. However, if those individuals looked closely, he thinks, they would recognize themselves and elements of their relationship history.
Christian Butterfield, Cold #2, 2020, acrylic and collage on canvas, 48 x 36 in. Courtesy of Corkin Gallery
Relationships are at the core of Butterfield’s work. His Apology Flowers series originally started as apology gifts to friends, lovers and acquaintances, inspired by his grandmother who asked him to paint flowers for her.
Christian Butterfield in front of Apology Flower #8 (across the bay), 2021, acrylic on linen, 84 x 72. Photo: Georgia Gardner
In terms of artistic process, he uses newspaper clippings as a way to respond to the oversaturation of media that has bombarded his generation, as someone who has grown up alongside the digital age. He layers selected newsprint clippings and fragments from publications, frequently sourced from the pages of Time Magazine, onto his painted canvas. The results are works that contrast order and disorder. The placement of the media is purposeful, and his painting style is a meticulous endeavor of sculpted geometric shapes and colours. Each media element is a declaration of consumer culture, societal pressure, or strain in an interpersonal relationship, engaging viewers in a process of vulnerability and reflection.
Christian Butterfield, Randoms, 2019, acrylic and collage on canvas, 48 x 36 in. Courtesy of Corkin Gallery
Butterfield’s composition capabilities are palpable in equal measure as his ability for introspection. His approach to art is that it should speak for itself, and he would not object to the ways in which it is interpreted. In a way, this allows Green Light to occupy a space that is light-hearted, and at times humorous. His personal ethos is one that does not place his art in one category, instead patiently allowing his art practice to obtain a natural progression. In conversation, Butterfield presents as soft spoken and measured. His artwork provide an exploration of the human psychological condition.
Christian Butterfield, Cheeks III and IV, 2019, acrylic and collage on canvas, 60 x 96 in. Courtesy of Corkin Gallery
Gallery Weekend Toronto has allowed for an enjoyable and thoughtful experience within Toronto’s art scene, joining the global event that inspires creativity, shows support for the arts, and allows for networking opportunities and exhibition discoveries. Christian Butterfield’s Green Light was one of the best exhibitions of the event and you can still visit it till October 9th.
*Exhibition information: Christian Butterfield, Green Light, September 11 – October 9, 2021, Corkin Gallery, 7 Tank House Lane in the Distillery District. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat 10 am – 6 pm.