Fresh flowers 

East coast artist transplants bold, vivid florals and landscapes to Whistler

Whistler's walls are chock-full of mountain landscapes, frozen in time with paint, pastel, pencil and more. But there's a new artist in town, and her subject matter and style are slightly unique to our artistic scene.

A few months ago Valerie Butters moved to Whistler and set up shop in the Geniele Gallery, where she has been working on her vibrant pieces. She is busily preparing for a solo exhibition at Toronto's Hollander York Gallery at the end of May. Aiming for 30 pieces, she is already well on her way to that goal, with 20 canvases completed.

"I'm ahead of schedule because I don't know anybody here," she said with a laugh.
The show, entitled "La vie en jaune," features larger-than-life acrylic paintings of flowers of various sizes. They're bold, bright and breathtaking, and something totally unique to Whistler's art scene.

This certainly isn't her first solo show, over the past five years Butters has been involved in 11 solo exhibitions. At first, seeing her work collectively in one space was an emotional and enlightening experience for the young artist.

"I walked in and I was like, 'It makes sense now, now I understand! I understand why series are so important, because it's almost like one big painting.'"

With each of the exhibitions, Butters starts with a concept and tries to stay on track, exploring it through the entire series.

"I can't get out of yellow - I'm stuck in yellow," she said, "Why fight it?"
Each of the canvases she is creating for the series incorporates the light of yellow - shapes of hues and values.

"My house is white," she said with a grin, "Everything is white, because when I'm done work I can't look at colour anymore."

Unlike a normal studio space, Butters said the Geniele Gallery has allowed her a unique opportunity to interact with members of the public who are free to pop in and watch her work as they please.

"You really learn from peoples' reactions," she added.

Butters studied at the Sadie Bronfman School of Fine Arts in Montreal, which closed last year. There, she was able to focus on hands-on arts training in the studio as opposed to theory.

"It was expressive and intuitive, and it really explored the subconscious and I like that," she said, adding that detailed, intricate work isn't her forte.

Rather, Butters' florals and landscapes are full of broad, bold, natural strokes.

"I have a lot of energy and I don't want to do these meticulous things," she said.
"... I don't want to know what it's going to look like when it's finished - I want to get lost in it."

And why focus on flowers?

"Obviously, I'd have to be crazy not to like them," she said with a laugh.
But the shape of the flowers isn't what truly appeals to Butters. Rather, she is passionate about their colour and energy.

"When it really comes down to it, I don't believe it's necessarily what you paint that's important, it's how you paint," she said, "Like I could be sitting here painting a nude and still be painting the same way; I'd just be capturing a different subject matter."

Her natural, free approach comes from her admiration for the Automatists, who believed that everyone has a distinct natural movement or signature, and if you were to hold a pencil and put it to paper, eventually, your hand will move in a specific way.

"That mark is your mark - that's what comes from you and nobody else could copy that if they tried," Butters explained.

"... Even though I'm doing very traditional subject matter, I believe that my process might not necessarily be cutting edge, but its definitely real."

Butters is well known on the east coast art scene, and she has actually been a self-supporting artist since her second year of art school.

"But I didn't wait for people to come to me," she quickly pointed out.
Her ambition has clearly paid off.

"I had this idea in my head that success, you have to be at the right time, at the right place, and have talent," she reflected, "If you put those three things together, you have a better chance at succeeding because most people don't even try to go after their dreams."


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