Paul Butler is an artist whose practice is founded on drawing but whose long career has crossed many boundaries: from sculpture to drawing; from painting to public art; from academia to curating and writing.
Paul studied sculpture at art school in the sixties and then worked in the theatre making sets and props for, amongst others, the RSC. Following an Arts Council major award in 1980 he went on to show large monochrome works in numerous exhibitions including 'Narrative Painting' at the Arnolfini and ICA galleries; 'Art for Society' at the Whitechapel Gallery; the Nuremberg International Drawing Triennale; an Arts Council funded retrospective touring exhibition initiated by the Ikon gallery; and a solo exhibition at the AIR gallery London.
In the early eighties Paul became involved in a number of public art projects described below.
From the 1990’s and up to the present time Paul Butler’s practice has centred on painting and he has shown widely in the UK and Europe. Group exhibitions over this period include ‘One Love’, at the Lowry, Manchester, 2005; ‘The Solar Anus’, Henry Peacock gallery, London, 2004; ‘Turbamenti’ at the Bargellini, Pievo di Cento, 2003; ‘Zoo’ art fair, London 2002; 'Transmission' British Council, Bologna, and 'Out of Line' Arts Council touring exhibition, 2001; In 1999 Paul received a Rootstein Hopkins award, which he used to research sources and subject-matter in the USA. Other significant group exhibitions include the John Moores, Liverpool, 1995/6; East International, Norwich, 1994; Witnesses and Dreamers, Museum of London, 1993.
From 1994 – 2001 Paul was represented by the Robert Sandleson gallery, Cork Street, London, where he had two solo and numerous group exhibitions. Other more recent one-man shows include Foster Art, London in 2005 and two solo shows ‘Hedonism & Stoicism’ at the MPA gallery in Bermondsey and ‘Ain’t it all a Bleedin Shame’ at Contemporary Art Projects in Hoxton, in 2009. Also in 2009 Paul was invited to take part in the Mark Rothko painting residency in Daugavpils (Rothko's birthplace) in Latvia with an international group of artists.
From 1990 – 2006 Paul Butler was head of Painting, and subsequently professor of Fine Art, at the University for the Creative Arts. At UCA he was responsible for undergraduate course development and delivery, running the Painting Masters programme, the Fine Art research programme, and practice-led Fine Art Phd supervision. He also initiated and developed the ‘Space of forgetting’ research project exploring painting process and practice.
Throughout his career Paul has undertaken many public projects. In 1981 he undertook an Arts Council funded residency in Maltby colliery, Yorkshire working underground with the miners and working in a studio at the pit. Work done during the artists residencies was shown in a touring exhibition initiated by Bradford museum and art gallery. In 1982/3 he painted the Cable Street mural (with Ray Walker and Desmond Rochfort) which commemorates the 'Battle of Cable Street'; and in 1984 the Shepherds Bush Peace mural. In 1985 Paul was commissioned by the TUC to paint the Labour History Mural at their Education Centre in Hornsey. From 1983-’85 he was artist-in-residence in the London borough of Hounslow where he initiated a number of projects including the Small Mansion Arts Centre.
From 1984 until 2006 he was director of The Small Mansion Arts Centre in London where he curated many exhibitions including 'Seeing Believing' in collaboration with the University of East London and Watermans Arts Centre and 'The Subjective City' national touring exhibition. In total he initiated, curated or was a key organiser of more than one hundred exhibitions at SMAC. He also initiated and ran the education programme, developing links with the universities of Brighton, Kingston, East London, Thames Valley and UCA, which led to a number of collaborative exhibition and education projects.
In 2009 was invited to be consultant to the Commune of Gualdo Tadino in Umbria, Italy on a major new Arts Centre being created there. In 2009/10 he also completed an art, community and literacy project working with young people from the Bethnal Green Technology College in London, sponsored by Allen & Overy, designing and creating the Lord Mayors float for the Corporation of London procession.
In 2011 Paul restored the Brixton Peace mural on the Brixton Academy, and in the same year the Cable Street mural - a major project which involved repainting large sections of the mural. In 2011 he exhibited drawings for the Cable street Mural for the 75th anniversary of the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ at the Studio 1:1 gallery in London. In 2014 he will commence work on the restoration of the Dalston Peace mural in London.
During 2013 Paul has renovated an old school house in rural mid-Wales which when complete will house studios and a gallery. He continues to give talks and lectures and occasionally teach his first love: drawing.
SELECTED ONE PERSON EXHIBITION
2009 MPA Gallery - London
2009 Contemporary Art Projects - London
2005 Foster Art - London
1999 Robert Sandleson Gallery – London
1996 Montpelier Sandleson Gallery – London
1985 Watermans Art Centre – London
1985 Turnpike Gallery - Manchester
1981 Ikon Gallery (ACGB Retrospective) – Birmingham
1980 Air Gallery - London
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2006 One Love – The Lowry, Salford
2005 Drawing – Foster Art, London
2004 The Solar Anus – Henry Peacock Gallery, London
Discerning Eye – London
Z00 Art Fair – London
2003 Turbamenti – The Bargellini, Italy
Red Snow – Pavillion Gallery, London
2002 Connections – James Hockey Gallery, Farnham
Chokkerfuckingblocked – Jeffrey Charles Gallery, London
Transmission – British Council, Bologna
2001 Out of Line – Drawings from the Arts Council Collection
2000 Garrick Milne – Christies, London
1999 Modern Pictures – Guildhall Art Gallery, Corporation of London
1995 John Moores 19 – Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
1994 East International – Norfolk Institute, Norwich
1982 Prophecy & Vision – Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
1982 Nuremberg International Drawing Triennial – Germany
1979 Narrative Painting – ICA, London and Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
RESIDENCIES & BURSARIES
2009 Rothko 2009 – Daugavpils Latvia
1999 Rootstein Hopkins Foundation - bursary
1986 TUC Labour History Mural – TUC National Education Centre, London
1984 Shepherd’s Bush Peace Mural - London
1983/5 London Borough of Hounslow – Artist-in-residence
1982 Cable Street Mural – London
1981 Maltby Colliery, Yorkshire – Artist-in-residence
1980 Arts Council Major Award
WORKS IN PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
The Arts Council Collection
The Corporation of London
The Museum of London
The Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston
Glasgow Peoples Museum
Turnpike Gallery, Manchester
Herbert Gallery, Coventry
Rochdale Art Gallery
National Union of Mineworkers
Edinburgh City Council
Bradford City Council
Paul Butler's paintings are held by many private collectors including
Peter Ackroyd, Beryl Bainbridge and Ralph Fiennes.
Paul Butler -Space of Forgetting website