By Sarah Kapp, AGGV Retail Assistant, Art Rentals & Sales
Whether it be the removal of problematic statues or the revival of sculpture gardens during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that sculpture has become a hot topic within the critical public eye. Sculpture commands our attention wherever it is found. In public spaces it defines and shapes our landscape, and its often grandiose presence welcomes critique. In private spaces, unlike paintings, sculpture is not contained within frames; rather, it shares space with the spectator and its location, historically on a plinth, acknowledging its authority.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has of course always enjoyed sculpture, be it the works of John Ritchell and Greg Snider located amongst Garry Oak trees in our front yard, the Shinto Shrine found in our Japanese Garden, or the various three-dimensional works displayed in our exhibitions. However, for the Art Rental and Sales (AR&S) program, sculpture never found its moment in the sun until 2017, when Karen Cooper, our AR&S Consultant, joined the AGGV team. Karen not only supported the few sculptors already in the program, but she sought to find new ones. She even carved out a space in her office — that she has named ‘the Sculpture Garden’ — to display our various local talents.
One of the newest AR&S sculptors is Leonard Butt. Leonard joined the program in February of this year, and we were immediately in awe of his almost-Surrealist style, sense of humour, and meticulous work. From a young age, Leonard showed interest in the visual arts. Growing up in a mobile military family, Leonard found companionship in creating and animating plasticine figures. Professionally, Leonard has an impressive resumé featuring a diverse background in ceramics, photography, art education, counselling, and art therapy. Drawing from such a variety of influences, it is no wonder that Leonard’s sculpture gives the sense that there is more than what meets the eye. Leonard feels that his art, which often touches upon allegorical themes, is an attempt to give expression to existential questions regarding our common search in life for meaning and connection. Leonard’s sculpture is the result of the very delicate process of raku-firing. He explains:
The immediacy of the process with all the smoke and flames, as well as the uncertainty of the outcome, can be very exciting. Nothing compares with the anticipation of rummaging through the hot ashes to discover what lies beneath. I also enjoy the dialogue that occurs when combining these ceramic forms with other materials such as found objects, burnt wood, and papier-mâché.
While there is no question that Leonard’s work is beautiful, its whimsical nature provokes the viewer to challenge what they are seeing and possibly ask deeper questions. Whether you are looking at a coy fish wearing a kimono, a man dreaming cozily on a fish, or a woman surfacing from the water, Leonard’s sculpture will without a doubt command attention in your home, as well as bring you joy.
Keep an eye out for Leonard’s work on our website.
Feature image: Leonard Butt in the studio | Photo courtesy of the artist