Founded in 2008, Carbon 12's 60th exhibition features André Butzer's works, a development on his so-called "N-paintings", which depict "white destruction". On closer inspection of the work, we see how Butzer has gradually reduced the presence of white and reveals a "secret brown tone".
Here, we document a conversation between Carbon 12 founders Kourosh Nouri and Nadine Knotzer with the artist where they discuss the current show, along with Butzer's influences.
Kourosh Nouri: We are here with André Butzer. This is my personal recording, 10th of November. Great moment, an amazing show. That’s the 3rd solo of André with us. Dubai’s weather is beautiful, we have incredible light now in the gallery and we can appreciate the show ten times more and then I want to have the voice of André here as he gives us a tour of the show.
André Butzer: Good. Yes, I am happy to see the light coming through the ceiling because in the night time when we have artificial light only, it kills some of the warmer tones that we can see or that we can at least imagine with these works more or less. So I think now with the two latest ones, we can clearly see that this high contrast and light source of white is gone in favor of something that is merged or like ‘fusioned’, kind of so my instinct made me destroy the white slowly. It took me a while and now that this sharpness of the white areas has gone in favor of something blurred, kind of like a melting process, that there is something spreading its energy into the entire field and yes, this is maybe now becoming something more closer to this birth giving moment of painting.
To have the N-paintings as the origin of life, like you know we say in German, Mutterkuchen (placenta) which is the word people don't use too often, it is close also to this ‘Matrix’ thing, the Mutterkuchen it is like the nutrition for the baby while being born inside a mothers area so this is a motherly area, this black painting. It’s very strongly connected to the mother as the truth bringing ground, the base for life.
So, we can say that these paintings are not the end even though now the white is destroyed and this whole thing is going a little bit blurry, unsharp, brownish it has some fruitful tendency to be this Mutterkuchen, to be the nutrition for fruit that is about to be born. So these paintings are about the beginning, about a constant beginning, scenario of beginning rather than a scenario of end so I think the painting in general is about the beginning and it should always be.
So, now that I am 44 years old, I came to this point and I feel I can now jump on the next level, somehow. Also for our 2020 show, coming up, this Mutterkuchen scenario gives me the right to see the fruit returning in a way but something that is returning is never returning in the same way it was before. It is a very difficult task. Normally artist’s go to a certain point and die, they finalize something and mostly finalizing means coming to a point which has no return.
I think that I have the chance to go further, so my 25 years of painting brought me to some kind of point that looks like a finalizing scenario. It might just be the moment to be a real beginner and to step on the next level which is a returning scenario like a second life, kind of. I can’t repeat anything I made so if I am lucky enough it will allow me to bring back things that have never been like this before which is philosophically seen also as very complicated, like its part of a very demanding scenario for my brain. So yes, we should tell people about this origin of life aspect, that I believe in painting as one of the sources of life. Its not that life is represented in painting, its that painting has been bringing up life, always, like light. We know that human life is non-existing without light, the light of the sun. It is a source of light and has been shining on us before we were here. It is the same as painting as a source of light. It’s part of this light proportion, these paintings are about light proportion. Now I have managed to destroy this still kind of naturalist light with this contrast. The contrast had to be abandoned, now darkness is light as a whole. The whole darkness is a source of light. And if darkness is a source of light, it is going to give birth, so it is a scenario of creation.
Kourosh Nouri: Wonderful André, this is amazing!
Nadine Knotzer: Would you say that whats coming back or happening now, is emerging out of the gap or that the gap is blur and it is emerging out of the entire painting?
André Butzer: I don’t know precisely myself because I can't place this event to a certain detail. You know it’s not part of a ...you can’t localize it, I think. The gap or the fugue (interstice) thing is strong, its like a main element in this thing but it’s not like a symbol, it’s not symbolically opening or closing. It’s function is to empower the entire field so it might be rather the entire field that is giving birth. Like I said it’s the Mutterkuchen so it’s not the gap itself, this would be to illustrate...
Kourosh Nouri: Its like fuel right?
André Butzer: ...like in one of my favorite films, ’Mission to Mars’. Do you know that one?
Kourosh Nouri / Nadine Knotzer: Yes
André Butzer: It’s by Brian De Palma, it’s the same scenario with this gap and he goes to Jupiter...
Kourosh Nouri: Yes, they make a mistake and they go somewhere else...
André Butzer: ...there this gap is closing and it is illustrating this gap as a functional element. I don't think that my fugue is a functional element, it has no function so it’s not illustrative. So because the whole painting has no function yet because painting is not functional, so this giving birth scenario is somehow part of a different magic and the fugue is only helping to reach it or to generate it, it’s a generator.
Kourosh Nouri: And also another question, most of the time people looking at the ladies which are contemporary to the N-paintings and at first they are amazed how different it is and afterwards they understand. What is your take on the parallel between the women and the N-paintings?
André Butzer: During those years I only made N-paintings. I tried to make some woman paintings showing woman accompanied and it wasn't easy for me to accept. Most of the time, I wasn't able to accept those paintings next to the N-paintings because the N-paintings don't know any painting next to them normally so this is why my brain is suffering from this very hard task to bring back something new and being part of the N-paintings scenario. It is not easy, they do not allow very easily something else and this is good for me because it makes me suffer.
I can’t just paint anything and say I have different kind of paintings, there is no strategy to have different types of painting. It’s a very closed job that the N-paintings don't allow anything but they might allow the woman in a representation that has learned through N-painting because N-painting is about the entire field and entire power of an entity so a portrait of the woman has to be of the same kind which is very difficult. And I wasn't able to accept it off course, because the bar is so high now. So I am still suffering but I have to do it. So it shows that I wasn't able to paint man or anything and it had a reason, the woman portrait like in Matisse...at some point he only painted woman...
Kourosh Nouri: Its true...
André Butzer: ...so the reason is because woman is the one who sits next to the truth, they sit there and wait and observe truth because they are part of the secret. So if women are part of the secret, they have the right to sit in a representational way next to the N-paintings.
Kourosh Nouri: And observe...
André Butzer: They are the truth, so this is the scenario where both can cherish the truth and now I might be able to bring back the entire genealogy because my whole painting project is genealogy. Like giving birth and having this genetic sequence we could also say the black paintings are like the artistic dna... the so called figure paintings, thats what they are built out of. It might not be obvious today but maybe tomorrow.
Kourosh Nouri: Yeah...absolutely!
André Butzer: It is my thinking. I’m a genetic but not like in science because I am against any kinds of sciences because art is no science. It’s not measurable, the measurement in art is irrational so it’s an irrational artistic dna of an ongoing and returning genealogy with many levels of life, like a virtual concept of life.
Kourosh Nouri: Can we say that the woman in parallel with the N-paintings, those are the paintings that you have accepted, to be witness and co-exist with the N-paintings?
André Butzer: Now I accept it...maybe some of them, maybe all of them...I don't know. I think it was the right way to very slowly try to accept then reappearing on a new level. They have more color, more field energy, they belong. All the pictorial elements are integrated into a whole entity more than they were before the black paintings. So I learned, now I can slowly accept and believe in this returning scenario and I have made one painting of a man...one...two...so I might be able to reorganize this genealogy. But this new genealogy will be never readable without the N-paintings. If this is now the acceptance of the life and death, its height of acceptance. I was able to integrate death as an entire experience into the genealogy. I wasn't able to that before I didn't have the N-paintings, I didn't see my father die and I wasn't grown up enough to realize that I had to integrate death as something accepted inside this life bringing art form. So now it will always be about the entire death experience even though it’s a colorful painting, but it will be dependent from this experience.
Nadine Knotzer: Thank you André.
Kourosh Nouri: Thank you André. Amazing!
André Butzer's exhibition is on show at Carbon 12 Gallery until 10 January.