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Eric Butcher | Sweet Heresy
Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, 8 January to 8 February 2020
A review by Clare French
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Sweet Heresy is Eric Butcher’s second solo exhibition at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art; he showed here previously in 2015.
Butcher’s reductive, rule-
Butcher’s skill, ability and place within his field are well established. However,
his work wears its technical and art-
The primary focus of Butcher’s artistic and curatorial practice is the creation of
My initial response to the installation of the painted sculptural pieces E/R. 884 & 894, E/R. 883 and E/R. 910 was to laugh. These works feel like slight outsiders desperately keen to get in to the party that is the building’s architecture, and oblivious to the fact that they may be forcing themselves into places and spaces where they might not quite fit.
E/R. 884 & 894 (019-
Are E/R. 884 & 894 just slightly too heavy, too intensely coloured to ‘match’ the white walls and column? The extreme diagonal shadows they cast feel playful, making the pieces themselves seem somehow sweetly wonky.
E/R. 883 is hung on a small section of corridor wall between the upstairs gallery
room and the gallery kitchen. This draws instant attention to an everyday, back-
E/R. 883 (2015-
E/R. 910, competing with the scattered joy and sparkle of I/R. 882 (below), thrusts its way upwards from its lowly hanging position towards the light, although this turns out to be a window looking out over an ordinary back yard. Knowing that these smaller sculptural, architectural metal pieces are offcuts from larger works adds to their sense of being interlopers or pretenders.
E/R. 910 (2017-
Sweet Heresy’s sense of play really takes off up the staircase walls. I/R. 882 is a scattering of about 70 small square aluminium paintings, hung intuitively to draw the viewer’s eye up and along, and encouraging engagement with the space of the staircase itself.
Installation shots of I/R. 882. (2019) Oil and resin on aluminium block. 100 pieces,
10 x 10 x 2.5 cm each (60-
P/R. 818 (2017-
© Patrick Heide Contemporary Art
This work could be described as the ‘hardest’, most mechanical, or even the most
The curatorial skill in combining elements of the work, the architecture, and the light, in order to constantly shift and expand the viewer’s experience of all three, is in evidence throughout. P/R. 850, which hangs above the fireplace upstairs, was visible before I entered the room, reflected in one of I/R. 882’s blank aluminium pieces in the hallway.
I/R. 882. (2019) (detail) Oil and resin on aluminium block. 100 pieces, 10 x 10 x 2.5 cm each. © Clare French
The gallery is in a multi-
Butcher’s constant encouragement to re-
P/R. 850 (2018). Graphite and acrylic gel on aluminium. 56.5 x 62 cm each. © Clare French
Once registered, this realisation sends the viewer back across the room to P/R. 818
to discover that rather than two panels, as I had initially read it, the painting consists
of fifteen panels, quite visibly joined.
P/R. 818 (2017-
Light is also essential in activating the layers of translucent colour that is another Butcher hallmark. For Patrick Heide, rather than being the integral, aggressive main focus of his work, Butcher’s colour is gentler, less intrusive, operating instead as one of the variable, chance elements in his practice.
Reductive art paradoxically imposes limitations on itself, in order to create work
of depth, richness and nuance that seeks to evoke engaged observation and multiple
responses in viewers. Similarly, rule-
In P/R. 852 for example, on the left on entering the downstairs gallery, the manufacturers’ marks are visible on the aluminium surface. This is because Butcher wasn’t happy with what he’d done on the ‘front’ of the aluminium sheet, and turned it over so as not to waste it. Even then, it is merely by chance that the text shows; it could just as easily have been covered by graphite.
Installation shots of P/R. 730 (2016) Oil and resin on aluminium. 80 x 108/124 x 70 cm.
E/R. 884 & 894 (2019-
P/R. 726 (2016) Oil and resin on aluminium. 70 x 89/124 x 70 cm. © Patrick Heide Contemporary Art
P/R. 852 (2018) Graphite, acrylic and acrylic gel on aluminium. 50 x 35cm
© Clare French
G/R. 904 (2019) Acrylic and carborundum on collaged paper and card. 38 x 29 cm
G/R. 895 (2019) Ink on blind embossed paper with cut-
G/R. 903 (2019) Acrylic, carborundum and bolts on paper. 37 x 26 cm
all © Clare French
Butcher’s paper works, which are given a strong presence at Patrick Heide
Contemporary Art, tend to be particularly exploratory, experimental and fluid. The
fragmentary, layered works on paper employ a wide range of techniques including
painting, drawing, collage, blind embossing and cut outs, and of materials. Some
works on paper also serve as sketches for large scale installations, introducing new
elements of chance into the outcome of the larger work and its curation. The
modular hang of the paper works on the ground floor, so that they hover between
being a series and a single work, also mirrors ideas of multiplicity and flux.
Sweet Heresy showcases to wonderful effect Butcher’s sharp, engaged focus on making,
materials, detail, light and environment, and his high level of awareness of, and
sensitivity to, relationships, change and feeling. His reductive, rule-
With many thanks to Eric Butcher and Patrick Heide for their generous contributions.
These are fun and bright, and Butcher is not afraid to reference IKEA-
On the left, in the upstairs gallery room hangs P/R. 818, across from a central fireplace, flanked by two bookshelves.
Light also enables Butcher’s work to achieve its constant sense of hovering and shimmering;
it feels almost in motion, another lovely deviation from the notion of abstract,
E/R. 884 (2019-
© Clare French
I/R. 882. (2019) (detail) Oil and resin on aluminium block. 100 pieces, 10 x 10 x 2.5 cm each
© Clare French