My studio is based in Buffalo, NY, where I am currently a resident artist at Buffalo Arts Studio. Though my recent work is primarily grounded in drawing, I was trained as a painter and graduated with my BFA in Drawing and Painting from SUNY Fredonia and my MFA from the University at Buffalo.
Through drawings rendered in charcoal and ink, my recent work examines issues related to memory by exploring its limitations and aestheticizing the instability inherent in portraiture. The work I create allows the viewer to enter the subconscious space between remembering and forgetting. The figures and faces, which have been distorted through a repetitive layering process, manipulate the viewers sense of familiarity. The original image becomes fragmented through this process, a conceptual procedure that corresponds to the experience of forgetting the semblance of the face, the body, and the subject.
The process of arriving at the reference image alternates between analogue and digital techniques. The raw, unaltered source photo is physically manipulated through an additive layering process. Films, ointments, and various substances are applied to the surface of the photograph, each layer removing it one step further from its origin. The image is re-photographed constantly throughout the process as a means of collecting information. Once this analogue process is complete, I continue augmenting and adjusting the images digitally, using layers to create a new level of distortion.
The image is then rendered in charcoal and charcoal powder using a painterly technique at larger than life scale. During the drawing process, a final transformation emerges as I adjust and reinterpret the reference image. The final image can only be realized through the activity of drawing, which creates a third representation that is neither real nor imagined.
The medium of charcoal serves as a material analog for impermanence, fragility, and malleability. Charcoal best articulates my thoughts about partiality, longing, preservation, reconstruction and deconstruction, not only for technical and aesthetic reasons, but because of its origin. As the residue of organic animal and vegetation substances, it speaks to the preservation and re-visitation of memory. The medium consists of dead matter that is condensed, preserved, and then reanimated through the drawing process. The dust can be reused over and over. Because it is an easily transferrable substance, the medium itself exerts a level of influence over the mark making process, an intention beyond the limits of my control.
Through distortion and fragmentation, the figures take on a monstrous form. The familiarity of the face evokes comfort while simultaneously rousing a sense of distress. This creates an intermediary form that inhabits a space both real and imagined. The resulting image is neither entirely original nor fully invented, taking form as a realistic rendering of a fleeting moment. By challenging the boundaries between representation and abstraction, and questioning the relationship between fluctuation and constancy, the works become entangled and disordered, mirroring the viewer’s innate desire for clarity and their proclivity for drawing meaning out of partiality.
Tricia Butski is one of six artists featured in the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s Artsy page. The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational runs through September 28, 2018.