About Perryn Butler, Welsh Sculptor
My work is derived from intense study of early civilisations. I am interested in the connection between man and his spiritual world. In this secular society, with an ever-decreasing attention span, I am looking for something deeper and more lasting. Feelings have been unfashionable both in art and music for many years, and concept and cerebral notions have been at the forefront in public galleries and evident in current music like death metal. British society has become divorced from feeling and caring, possibly through daily bombarding by the media. We are so used to images of war and starvation that terrible ghastly things have become commonplace. I think soon people will start to want something which expresses the feelings of love, sadness anger and pain that we have numbed ourselves from. I carve with my emotions and love and belonging are profound emotions which are joyous to express. The Welsh word for it is "heireith", which as well as belonging means a yearning for your homeland. Mine is Pembrokeshire in West Wales in the British Isles. It is surrounded by wilderness and beautiful beaches, magical hills full of ancient burial site and stone circles.
There is a notion that artists can only work when they are in the mood. I like to work, in whatever state of mind I happen to be in. I feel things profoundly and so how people feel matters very much to me and it is something that I wish to share. I make story pictures in stone which are meant to portray what it felt like to be in that place at that time. A sort of window on the past that tell the onlooker what is happening. I also use metaphor, like music, which is important to me, because I play the guitar and sing in a band. The interplay between musician and instrument goes far deeper than the music actually played. The instruments evolve into metaphors themselves.
Art forms like music and dance, drama and poetry are fundamentally about communicating feeling at different levels and I want my sculpture to do so as well. You don`t choose to be an artist, it chooses you and the obsession grows ever more complex and profound. It drives you to make works which you feel you have to make, even though they are not commercial or at all suitable for the current market. The Art period that was the most influential for me, was the early part of the twentieth century as I grew up surrounded by Picasso`s and Matisse`s. Gutfreunds and Brancusis stared at me over breakfast, as my stepfather had a large collection of modern art all over the house.
Stone is an extremely ancient material, which has taken millions of years to form and takes a long time to emerge from the sculptor`s hand. When I have carved it, the work becomes timeless, it could be two thousand years old and yet it also looks like it was made yesterday. I sometimes have a feeling when I am working which I call as "Going into the silence" it is a form of deep contemplation, a place that sometimes takes days to find and is hard to come back from. This feeling of serenity is tangible in my work, which is predominantly about connection with others, present or past.
It is difficult to perceive my work without touching it, because the hands can interpret meaning, better than the eye. In soapstone and some African stones, I almost stroke it into shape and form and my sculptures are understood better by the hands than just by looking at them.
Carving is as old as mankind and just as relevant to life today as it ever was. The joy is that it is difficult, you can`t stick a piece back on and you are always constricted by the size of the block. This calls for ingenuity and a fluidity of expression that does not exist for me in other materials. I use predominantly lime stones like Bath stone from the West of England, because I like the warm colours and I can work it quickly and carve as the thoughts flow to me, so I don`t lose the skein of an idea. I love the texture and the fossils and faults and bits of shell that make you have to constantly change the design, which stops me getting stale or bored. I occasionally carve harder stone, which is crisper and can hold harder edges and has a finer texture, but sometimes banging away at a piece for months on end does not interest me for the sake of it. I would rather use something softer and cast it.
Some of the pieces have been cast into traditional bronze in limited editions and some have been cast into cold cast bronze to make them more accessible. Thank you for reading this. If you have an opinion about my work I would love you to share it with me. I am on face book.