Eleanor Louise Butt

Melbourne-based artist Eleanor Louise Butt talks about the ways in which her works ‘speak’ to each other, conversing and sharing expressions across multiple planes until a melody is formed.

I observe my paintings developing like a conversation, whereby each mark influences the next. Emergent forms oscillate in dialogue with one another, and motifs are repeated across planes. My work adopts the potentialities of paint to create visual dialogues where action, experience, perception and memory are interwoven and folded back into one another.

My current body of work began in late 2019 in St Ives, UK, where I was awarded a tenancy at Porthmeor Studios for seven weeks. Having this time solely dedicated to my practice was an incredible opportunity to focus and uncover new concepts and ways of working.

I felt the colours and intensity of the Cornish landscape seep into my work. The rough winter ocean smashed against towering granite cliffs and reverberated through my legs and into my body. The raw energy inspired me to paint larger more ambitious works. I hadn’t imagined that I could be inspired by landscape in a way that wasn’t visual, there was something vitalising about that cliff-edge life.

Now back in my Melbourne studio, I continue to work on multiple paintings at once, which means that the works combined can be read as a whole. They communicate across planes to each other, calling and repeating expressions, until a conclusion is reached.

Taking a shape or mark from a previous work, I begin a new painting. Coarse linen, cotton, and hessian are used as foundational surfaces that function neither solely as object nor image. What then follows is an intuitive process of applying and removing paint, pouring, rubbing and layering, where each painting occurs within a wider process of material exploration. I load up a brush and drag the paint across the surface, allowing chance to interact with material. I am interested in creating tensions between the multiple layers on my surfaces.

Sometimes an accident or ill-placed mark is the best thing that can happen to a painting. In rubbing back the paint, an understory is revealed that can be built upon, and earlier ideas that were laid down are brought back to light.

In Yellow Blocked out Sketch on Brown Ground (2019), the smooth, brown ground was rubbed into the canvas and lines lifted from a sketch were laid on top, with sections subsequently blocked out. I was pushing a sense of tension and awkwardness in this painting, by filling the surface plane and pushing the linework against the edges. I enjoy the way it prompts me to try and peer around the blocking and to question what is behind those flat areas.

Composition in Brown, from Porthmeor (2019) is a scaled-up re-working of a smaller work. I was interested in contradictory representations of growth and compression, and in drawing out a glowing resonance from within the painting. The browns echo the bracken of the moors I had been walking though daily in Cornwall. There are loose flowers down the right hand side of this painting, a nod to the borders of Bonnard’s paintings, an artist whose work has been a significant influence on my own practice.

Scale and strong solid forms repeated from previous paintings are employed in Large Abstraction in Brown and Yellow (2020). Originally this painting was going to be yellow on a white ground, but the negative space needed the dark anchor of the brown. A large brush loaded with brown paint and dragged across the surface allowed chance and material to charge the lines with tension.

I have been keeping a journal of sketches, which has provided fresh entry points for beginning new paintings. These pencil sketches are the source of the pared-back painting palette of Compressed Form (raw umber and white abstraction II) (2020). Built-up energetic line-work, reminiscent of a sculptural form with heavily gouged lines, resulted in an impasto surface bulging with brown and white.

I don’t attempt to say everything in a single work, rather I focus on allowing my paintings to speak together across multiple planes.

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 52, 2020

Eleanor Louise Butt
27 January – 13 February 2021
Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne

Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related