Drawing Board: Sarah Butterfield

A look at the artist's first international solo exhibition

Sarah Butterfield

Last month Shanghai hosted the first international solo exhibition of my paintings, Light and Life. I have wanted to exhibit in China for a long time because Chinese art has influenced me so much. I love the calligraphic marks of Chinese watercolour and ink paintings. I have tried to make every brushmark as expressive and minimalistic as I can like, those great masters.

Above: “Strand on the Green, July Afternoon; below: “Horse: Thinking Of Mantegna”

And I have loved Chinese screen paintings ever since I was a student. Often there are six vertical panels in a row, showing, for instance, a tree on the leftmost panel. On this panel you read the space between the leaves as light on dark. As your eye progresses across the panels it ends with dark twigs against the light. The transformation of marks from light on dark to dark on light is endlessly fascinating. These reversals, first made made by Chinese artists more than 2,000 years ago, underpin all great Western art since the Renaissance. So this is another Chinese first.

Above: “In The Garden: Still Life With Cherries”; below: “At The Ocean: Two Friends”

I am also fascinated by sunlight, and the different light you get during the day from cool, early-morning light to the warmth of the sunset colours ranging from red and dark blue and sometimes green, lemon yellow and orange. Midday light can be paradoxically mysterious as all shadows are foreshortened and can make for an uneasy effect. All these are very much Western preoccupations. I hope the exhibition will have made a bridge between the art of the East and the art of the West.

Above: “Putney, Early Morning”

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