Waltman Ortega Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings by French artist Jérôme Borel, and English artist Richard Butler. Comprised of Borel’s acrylics on canvas and Butler’s recent oils, produced mainly in 2020 and 2021, the show is on view from at our gallery in Wynwood Art District from February 20th, 2021 through April 20th, 2021.

Jérôme Borel was born in 1958 in Gap, France. He built his practice on his own and took a detour at the University of Montreal, Québec, to expand his knowledge in modern and contemporary art history (American art history in particular). His background as an art historian is noted by his hybridization of styles as well as his reconsiderations of themes, eras, and genres.

Borel recognizes himself in the brilliant thoughts of Jeff Wall, for whom “the utmost activity of the artist is not to destroy or violently attack the tradition of the image to which he belongs, but rather to explore its legitimacy by integrating a critical dimension to his or her work”. With his unique blending of influences, Borel explores universal and contemporary themes such as sex, death, religion, media, and war. “I paint abstract representations with figurative shapes. Each work is a possible answer to the fundamental questions of our existence”, states the artist. He developed a visual vocabulary both powerful and subtle, combining a strong narrative with the constant deconstruction of the subject. Between presence and absence, representation and suggestion, Jérôme Borel opens a mental space, where the imagination navigates through literary and cinematographic references. Among the influences in his paintings are modern masters in painting Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Claude Rutault, and Bertrand Lavier. Filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Luis Buñuel, and the music group Joy Division have also been cited as inspirations.

Borel’s international career includes artistic residences and special projects in Djibouti supported by the Villa Medici Prize; a residency at the French Institute of Naples in Italy; a residency and special projects in South Africa awarded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fellowship and the French Institute of Thessaloniki. Jérôme Borel works are included in major public collections such as the French National Fund for Contemporary Art, the French National Library and, since 2017, Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Société Générale Collection, and The Colas Foundation.

The close-up portraiture by Richard Butler, whose multi-disciplinary artistic practices range from visual art to music, at times present a dark humor and a melancholic sensuality, suggesting states of psychological struggle or some contemplative renunciation to internal conflict . "My works are paintings of the 'every person'", states the artist, "This series of paintings focuses on the depiction of abstracted faces that might be familiar, but certainly not recognizable. By placing these figures against dark backgrounds the focus is then to identify the discernible features of these mystery characters. Outside of working within a traditional portrait context, these figures are more dependent on intuition. In this way, the work is less formulaic and more singular in its execution. Often 'collaged' from separate images of the same person, or on occasion different people, these portraits are, therefore, in a sense, identity fluid."

Butler’s haunting portraits, in which he often depicts his daughter or his wife, blur any distinction between portraiture and abstraction as they spin in intoxicating slow motion. “Some ninety percent of the paintings I make are based upon images of my daughter, usually distorted in one way or another. She has become a cipher for me, an every man/woman,” the artist explains. “These portraits are ambiguous in a sense that, while based upon images of a particular person, that identity is usually distorted and disguised, rendering the figures almost, but not quite, recognizable.”

Butler’s canvases combine the melancholy with a surreal, dreamlike state bathed in a kind of eerie silence. Often his subject’s face is obscured by heavy, theatrical-like make-up, masks, confessional screens, veils and shrouds, creating a labyrinth of psychological layers, which the viewer is invited to transverse and gain an understanding of the subject and the self. Butler combines classic beauty and the surreal, even the grotesque, in haunting works that the artist insists “are just paintings.” Many are relatively small, almost life-sized, placing the viewer face to face with the subjects. Butler has said that he thinks of these portraits as self-portraits — that they reflect feelings from his "own psyche."

Richard Butler was born in Hampton Court, England in 1956. He studied painting at the Epsom School of Art and Design (now Surrey Institute for Art and Design). Shortly after graduating from the art school, in 1977, Richard Butler became a founder and singer/songwriter for the British post-punk / new wave band "The Psychedelic Furs". Quickly gaining commercial success, his musical career kept him away from painting throughout the 80s and the 90s. In early 2000s, Richard Butler returned to painting and started exhibiting his art in the U.S. and Europe. He prefers to call himself a painter who sings, rather than a singer who paints. He lives and works in New York.