by Vanessa Nicholas
This past week between Sunday March 9 and Wednesday March 12 Paul Butler hosted one of his famous collage parties at Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery as part of the University of Toronto’s annual Festival of the Arts. How I wish I could have been there!
Buter’s collage parties are modest events that usually takes place in gallery or studio spaces. Chairs, tables, tape, and magazines are provided and all are welcome to participate. The parties can last from a few hours to a few days and all resulting works are exhibited afterwards. Butler, who is from Winnipeg and graduated from The Alberta Collage of Art and Design in 1997, began hosting collage parties in 2002 after he began missing the concentrated and communal atmosphere of creativity that characterizes the art school experience. Though they began as casual events between friends, Butler’s concept quickly gained international popularity. Butler has hosted collage parties in London, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Oslo, and Dundee.
I imagine these events to be like group meditations. Canadian artist Cliff Eyland describes the parties as “many hands slapping, folding, creasing, and tearing…the prevailing mood is contemplative…[it is] a set of long, dreamy interludes of looking.”
Butler’s collages themselves reveal an interest in meditation and equate the collage process itself to a kind of redemption. They are often combinations of text and empty space or landscape scenes that give the viewer physical room to breathe. The untitled and undated work that is pictured above, for example, features a forest scene with the text “decisions, decisions, decisions” set against it. This combination of found natural imagery and provoking text embodies the type of refuge that the collage process can offer. “Decisions, decisions, decisions” describes a state of stressful sensory overload as well as the restorative act of making a collage. Magazines, newspapers, advertisements, junk mail, and pamphlets in many ways represent the clutter and stress of urban life that can make us feel claustrophobic and over stimulated. Collage prompts us to slow down and purposefully consider the minutia of everyday life. The challenge of selecting and compose images in a meaningful way encourages us to seek out beauty in a pro-active way.
Make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for Butler’s collage parties. In the meantime, serve your soul and start cutting and pasting!