Mestaria to host British artist Tom Butler’s studies of Dubai cityscape - GulfToday

Mestaria to host British artist Tom Butler’s studies of Dubai cityscape

Tom Butler’s artwork Point of View.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Well-known British artist Tom Butler will be presenting his latest exhibition, Monochrome Metropolis, at Mestaria Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (Jan. 27 – Feb. 18). The launch coincides with Al Quoz Arts Festival 2024, being held January 27-28. Butler’s artworks will present detailed contemporary representations of some of the landmarks of Dubai’s cityscape. There are hidden depths inside the images: they reveal themselves only if one takes time to stand alongside and study them.

In a departure from his signature vibrant collages, Butler’s Monochrome Metropolis is a refined exploration and narration of Dubai’s architectural story. The series showcases his meticulous craftsmanship, in fine line ink and graphite, to create accurately detailed art. It is a stylised rendering of Dubai’s landscape; it encourages contemplation and appreciation of the ornamental beauty of Dubai’s buildings rather than just appreciating them for their functional qualities.

The show is Butler’s a tribute to Dubai’s architectural narrative, encapsulating an artistic journey through the cityscape. He determinedly uses only a single hue in his personal account of Dubai. Through intricate layers of paper, pens and pencils, he constructs a tapestry that captures the city’s architectural essence, presenting a sense of timeless elegance and profoundity.

 Tom Butler’s work titled Marina Cruising.

At the heart of the exhibition is the artist’s fascination with Dubai’s juxtaposition of historical gravitas and bold - perhaps sassy - modernity. Each artwork eloquently captures the dynamic evolution of Dubai’s urban landscape, weaving together the city’s mysterious charm and architectural splendour, with understated precision. The collages have been reduced to basic elements, adding force to the narrative.

So, here’s for a time of contemplation and meditation. Butler braves the pulls and pushes of Dubai, telling the viewer there’s another factor to be savoured amidst the hustle and bustle of city lights. He could be inviting those rushing by, reminding them through the words of the poet

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

… A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

- William Henry Davies

One could perhaps replace sheep and cows with gentlemen in suits and ladies in dresses, to put the show in context. Butler is a distinguished British artist known for his adept use of mixed media, crafting layered narratives in his art. He is well known for his cityscapes; his work has captured the drama of big cities from London and New York to picturesque British coastal town life.

Around the year 2004, he and his wife took a holiday in the South of France, visiting a town called Uzes. “My senses were awoken!” Butler recalls. “I was mesmerised by the light, colour and texture of the place. Bright awnings and parasols amongst weathered stone buildings, with shuttered facades and crumbling masonry.

 Tom Butler completing a work.

And ‘les publicités anciennes’ – huge, faded adverts from bygone days that used to be hand painted onto the sides of buildings. Maybe this is where my attraction to having text within a painting began. Every angle of this town was an artist’s delight. With photos galore, I set about recreating what I’d experienced as soon as I returned. The resulting artwork proved successful with local galleries and also online and ultimately paved the way for my love of capturing cityscapes.”

Tom Butler the artist was born. His technique and style have evolved over the years. He began introducing mixed media into his work back in 2005 and the collage style is now an integral part of his artwork. “It adds intrigue, resonance and a touch of humour,” he says. Subject matters have varied over the years, but he has enjoyed studying London “with all its old fashioned charm and bustle.” Paris, New York, Havana, Venice and Dubai are also on the list.

“I love to travel and discover new places,” Butler says. “Like my taste in music, my love of art is widespread. I really appreciate the use of colour and light by some of the Impressionist painters, namely Monet and Cezanne.” Claude Monet was a master who understood the effects of light on the local colour of objects, and the effects of the juxtaposition of colours with each other, while Paul Cezanne’s mature work made its mark for its architectural style of painting.

Among other influences on Butler are John Singer Sargent, Kandinsky and the 1930s poster artist and typographer, A.M Cassandre. Also among inspirations are the talents of Norman Rockwell and cartoonist Ralph Idris Steadman, from whom the artist learnt to create expression in characters and bring to life illustrations.

Mestaria Gallery, according to its personnel, is a “contemporary, affordable, non-intimidating art space.” First established as a gallery space in the UAE in the 1990s, it is now one of the region’s foremost contemporary art spaces, specialising in works from accomplished regional and global talent, with a specific focus on work of the Arab, African and Asian worlds.  Based in the U.K., Butler’s exclusive representation in the UAE is through Mestaria Gallery.


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