22 Bury Street
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Exhibition runs: 16th July- 3rd August 2013
Review by Holly Monger
George Butlerâ€™s focus on reportage illustration specialising in travel and current affairs has taken him across the world to drawÂ in situoften in places of conflict or difficulty. Drawing has led Butler to depict oil fields in Azerbaijan, reconstructive plastic surgery, G20 riots, the New York Fire Department and Asian elephants. More recently in August 2012 he walked from Turkey across the border to Syria drawing civil war damaged towns, returning later for a more extended trip recording stories amongst the field hospitals.
It is some of these images that we are shown in the Illustration Cupboardâ€™s exhibition of George Butlerâ€™s last year of drawing. These are combined with works created in Mumbai where, as well as depicting the area and slums of the city, Butler was painting tuberculosis patients on behalf of MÃ©dicens Sans FrontiÃ¨res. Other works in the show are of scenes a bit closer to home as Butler depicted some views of London at the Royal Wedding.
The drawings themselves have all the hallmarks of being drawn on site. Splashes of ink, redrawn elements and half realised faces give the viewer a real sense of the immediacy of the drawingâ€™s creation. The marks capture the feel of what is actually like to be in a crowded place- you see a face or notice a sign here and there but most is a blur of visual noise. This is shown by Butler with his use of negative space, and the shape of the drawings on the paper gave the drawings a sense of design and considered composition. Often the images were centralised and full of detail in this area but faded outwards instead of stretching from edge to edge, maybe bounded by a single line to depict the edge of a building or some detailled mark-making to imply that the scene continues. This gives a directed focus to the image and gives the image a more organic feel, not harshly cut off by the edges of the paper.
The drawings of George Butler offer a renewed way of looking at the scenes that we have become accustomed to seeing in photographs. The images are an unbiased reflection of situations and circumstances. He captures a place in a way that is to do with accuracy, recording and description; and that offers another perspective on the events in the world that we hear about but often feel so far away from. These are sometimes celebratory, striking or cheerless, but all are a sensitively drawn reaction to real life.