Featured Artist: Caleb Butterly | Cassandra Voices

Featured Artist: Caleb Butterly


As a child I was drawn to draw figures. I watched my mother paint and listened to my father tell stories. As my study and practice of art and anatomy have progressed in depth and complexity so too has my choice of models.

As we all grow, live, love and age we acquire scars, stretchmarks, mum tums, cellulite, lines, fat and much more. All of these surface details for me have come to be the most precious parts of humanity’s patina.

Grey Morning.

When nude we show much of our lived story in our skin and form and my art strives to take the time to pause and explore these lives and celebrate their beauty. Paintings for me are a one frame play using light, line, value and colour that can draw out the best parts of not just the model’s unique story but in a way that most of us can relate to and admire.

In a time where scrolling airbrushed myriad images and rapid videos is the unhealthy and unsatisfying trend, take the time to stop and look at just one image for a while and enjoy the anti-scrolling that is visual art and the cure for many of western humanities current maladies.

Many of my models are amateur first-timers and model for me upon hearing of a friend or acquaintance of theirs having already enjoyed modelling for me. I’ve spoken to all about their motivations, and none have felt their body or story typically celebrated in mass media.

Red Thread No. 9.

Rather than erase the signs of aging to look like the fictional 1% that is sold to us, my art utilises the marks of aging from a genuine love and appreciation of greater complexity in forms that only comes as people age and mature. For me, the human form is the greatest narrative device and I love using it to explore and celebrate the bittersweet lives we all live through our bodies.

I have always been driven to make things and learn through my broad range of interests, which has seen me live a somewhat fractured life professionally and educationally. I went from studying engineering to completing degrees in both sport science and psychology. My father was a fisherman, and I went from working for him to labourer, bin-man, barman, office worker, assistant psychologist in a prison, fine art metal worker in a bronze foundry and now a welder for over a decade.

It was working in the bronze foundry with other artists that showed me making art was the one thing that united and made sense of the fractured parts of myself.

Metal Men No.1.

Eleven years ago after a divorce I set about researching and teaching myself the methods of realist drawing and painting in the traditional fashion.

After building my skill set I then set about working with models to make the art I wanted to see made. I’ve exhibited and sold numerous works at art shows and events while working fulltime and been rejected by near every gallery I’ve approached.

Nudes, even ones as good as I make, are a hard sell in Ireland. Most of the younger, less conservative people who love my work have neither the spare income to buy art, let alone a house with walls to hang.

Eventually Giovanni from GalleryX saw my work at Artsource and offered me a solo show. This show represents over ten years of study, work, practice, rejection, small wins and unwavering passion for the human form and the importance of visual art in our lives – now more than ever.

My Red Thread series explores a common but diverse element that to me seemed present in all of my work with female models and expressed through their connection to fabric and objects of a deep red colour.

Red Thread No.3.

I don’t have the words for this exploration. Hence I have nine paintings that do what words or music or film cannot. The paintings themselves, like all of my work, are only ever completed when viewed and experienced.

The possible similarities and diversity in the experiences of these myriad completions in the mind’s eye of the viewer, and the range and overlap with the experiences of the models themselves, are what this series of works explores.

Making a living as an artist is a challenge, but living as an artist and art lover is something that makes every living day a feast for the eyes.

Metal Men No. 6.

I have worked as metalworker for over a decade and two dominant colours I get to enjoy as an artist in great variety of hue and form are that of sand-blasted grey steel and orange- brown oxide rust. I have incorporated these colours into my Metal Men series which seeks to explore themes around modern fragile masculinity, violence and depression and surrender to the grind of life and one’s own demons. This series is additionally personal to me as for many of these first pieces I have used myself as model and actor.

Both of these series of paintings, along with sixteen other figurative works will be available to view and buy as part of my first solo exhibition in Gallery X, Hume Street in the heart of Dublin from May 3rd to 18th.

Follow Caleb Butterly on Instagram.

Featured Image: Red Thread no.7.


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