Jonathan Butt’s latest work explores the relationship of professional sports to the more complex human interactions played out day to day. To the fan, sports are a form of leisure activity, an escape from life’s confusions into a realm of clearly defined edges. Conversely, the seductive framework of sport often becomes a crude model with which to simplify the world. While looking at the use of sport as a blend of entertainment and parable, Jonathan’s work is as much a rumination on the role of the athlete. In games requiring advanced spatial perception and control, the athlete resembles a 19th century transcendentalist. He or she is alone, at one with their surroundings, and highly attuned to minute changes in the environment and their own body. During which time the athlete is subject to the intense physical scrutiny of spectators.
Given this, the professional athlete not only has to be among the best at their game, he or she must also possess the ability to ignore the spectacle of which he or she is at the center of this arrangement emerge two insoluble spaces that are superimposed upon the athlete’s body. One is the athlete’s ballooned consciousness as their mind executes a sequence of precise operations whilst suppressing the would-be impact of the spectators’ gaze. The other is the image of the athlete’s physical appearance as it is grotesquely dissected by the audience.
This show sprung up from these thoughts—sport as insidious abstraction, athlete as exemplar of absorption, looking as activity. Says Jonathan of his own work, “It is figurative and more or less physically self-contained which could be taken as my own inclination towards bodies with clearly defined edges.”