Nick Butcher (b. 1980, Dyersburg, TN) is an artist and musician living in Chicago, Illinois. He is currently an MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Printmedia department. Butcher’s work, though diverse, has centered around printmaking since 2001. He received his BFA form Middle Tennessee State University under the guidance of printmaking professor Christie Nuell in 2002. A Chicago resident since 2002, Butcher has worked under local printmaker Jay Ryan, as well as established Sonnenzimmer, a collaborative art practice, print and design studio with his partner, Nadine Nakanishi. His collaborative work has been shown in the United States, Europe, and China with recent exhibits at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Real Copies Growing up in rural west Tennessee, far away from any art museums or galleries, my introduction to fine art was through printed matter, namely art history books. In the pages of these overviews, I was overwhelmingly drawn to works labeled abstract or modern. Reproductions of works by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Josef Albers, with their bold use of color, form and experimentation struck me with their directness, transparency, and confidence. For me, these images felt more real than much of the work that had historically lead to their development. Instead of strict representation or illusion, this was art exploring the very nature and function of pure image.
Surprisingly, when I finally had the opportunity to see works by these artists in person, I couldn't shake a nagging underlying disappointment. I somehow preferred many of these pieces in their printed form, especially in relation to the purposeful system provided by the book's design and the intimacy created by its scale. For me, the reproduction process had removed much of the physical evidence of the artwork's creation; brush stroke, irregularities in tone or line, ultimately removing an intuitive connection to the time or location of it's creation, reducing it to sheer image with no beginning or end.
This notion has greatly influenced my approach to image making and choice of medium. For the last 12 years, printmaking has been my primary artistic outlet. While painting continues to shape my visual vocabulary, it's in printing where I've found the most interesting challenges. The process enables the creation of images one step removed from the artist's hand, embedding expression through mechanical means. In doing so, the focus is placed on the formal qualities of the image rather than physicality of the material used to create it. My interest lies in the investigation of how images fundamentally work. For me, printmaking offers the perfect vehicle for this exploration. Printed one premeditated color at a time, the image making process is split into systematic layers and steps, offering unparalleled access to the DNA of an image.
Working predominantly with the screen-printing process, I've developed an improvisatory approach to image making, using the medium's additive nature to sculpt images through a mixture of chance and organization, balancing a chaotic nonchalance with that of tempered control. In doing so, the very fabric of the image and the image making process is left malleable, offering a multitude of possibilities of intersection, intervention, control, as well as chaos, chance, and haphazard combination, all of which inform my idiosyncratic images.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.