Roy Joseph Butler 28.05.15

Roy and I have worked together on 8 projects previously, some rather demanding. His body and skin, the hue, texture, smell are familiar, thus the desire to explore it has developed to become a joint desire to investigate his and the viewers’ haptic, visceral response to substances on his skin – following on from the session that produced Floor Skin. After that work, he was keen to try clay, with/out mixed with paint. We discussed the sensitive connection here to tribal body decoration, and modern primitivism. As someone who has studied Social and Political Theory to MA level, he was comfortable, and indeed refused to be put off, by possible connections.

From earlier experimental sessions, I knew that the actuated surface/body/materiality/shell that clay gives paint, and the resulting cracking, would have a dramatic effect on his skin/texture/hues.
I was keen to capture the detail on the skin, the texture, the paint marks, the cracks and gaps between the paint.

The dialectic in this case was largely skewed towards the intuitive and instinctive response, but with some preparation of ideas for the use of clay which were discussed with Roy on the day of the work.

My scientific curiosity focused on the impact of different cut-lines to unwrap his skin. Inner nature – at a time when his personal life is in turmoil, he still gave of himself. I have always sensed his inner joy and warmth, and wanted that to come out and confront the world. I asked him for the smile that would irradiate everyone in the room.

Roy is a very frontal person, so this tries to capture that. It is about fronting up, making big in front of the audience. It is about his inner joy, his warmth of smile. He described himself as being in a yellow mood that day – bright sun, lifted freer and lighter. It is a reaction against grey nothingness.

Therefore the cut-lines were devised to open the skin from the back forwards, and the painting scheme used dark blues/blacks/purples along the intended cut zones in order to provide “coastlines” to the main body/land when opened out.

As a child, Roy always felt his face was quite different to other kids. He says this derives from his heritage of West-African and Native American. Considerable care and new techniques were used when opening the skin to ensure the facial area did not distort to the point of losing that.

The palette developed on the day from the initial yellow. I mixed a wide range of yellows through oranges, and offset them against areas of lightly coloured clay. Highlighting using flouro yellow, to accentuate the “lava” flows along some parts.

The nature of the exploration is evidenced by the paint marks, the traces, which further share the artist’s exploration with the viewer. The real detail of the paint marks, and the cracking of the paint/clay combinations convey a strong haptic affect in the viewer.

The end result is a startling and very joyous image, that’s captivating and draws the viewer in to inspect in detail. It is also very geographic, suggesting an island with jagged coastline and rich topography – we are all islands in this world.

Click on image to enlarge…

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