Text by Sergio Gomez
Corinna Button’s solo exhibition About Face at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago explores issues of identity as they relate to our social interactions and the drama of daily life. At first impression, Button’s work manifests an exuberant aesthetic beauty derived from her complex layering process and mastery of printmaking techniques. Beyond the immediate surface and the conspicuous masquerade depicted in her figurative works, one finds the intensity and feminine sensitivity of an artist engaged in an arduous personal journey. About Face portrays a narrative and an exploration of our common social drama as observed, perceived or remembered by the artist.
Corinna Button was born and raised in Great Britain where she received her fine art education from Leeds Polytechnic and advanced printmaking post graduate studies at Croydon College of Art. It was there that she earnestly studied printmaking. Her love for the printmaking processes led her to adopt it as one of her primary mediums of expression. Presently, Button’s studio practice delves between painting, drawing, collage and printmaking. In fact, there is not a dividing line between them as she simultaneously works in all these mediums. The result is a cohesiveness of expression and form which revers the history of art
making while conversing with our contemporary realities.
Button’s inspiration from the works of German Expressionists such as Max Beckmann and Käthe Kollwitz emerges as an indirect influence in her studio practice. The female human forms depicted in her work appear to capture life from the expressive spontaneity of her process. But chance is not a mere result of spontaneity. In Button’s works, surprise and accidental gestures invite a continuous engagement between her and the work as she masterfully negotiates between the accidental and the controlled elements of each piece. It is in this affair of action and effect that Button gives birth to a distinctively
textured and well orchestrated visual narrative.
Thematically, the work of Corinna Button addresses the social interactions and personal perceptions of our private and public human existence. In particular, those experienced by women. In Button’s work, there seems to be a constant observation and commentary about the cultural parameters of human interaction. Button’s idol series explore the isolation and impersonality of today’s cultural pop idols with all their excesses and apparent invulnerability. Often depicted with their eyes closed in a slightly seductive, royal or composed posture, these idols resemble classical figurative sculpture with a contemporary
expression and theatrical flair.
Who are these idolized female personalities? Perhaps, Button challenges our role in a consumeristic society which rewards and idolizes individuals based on their external characteristics, fame or fortune. This examination of mass media production reveals a theatrical and superficial attitude towards the perception of reality. The identity of these idols often hides behind elaborate whimsical masquerades. These idols of social consumption distant themselves from mere mortals and take the role of bigger than life staged characters as exemplified by the eight feet tall idols of Button’s latest creations.
Another important series in Button’s work is the figure groupings in which multiple figures interact in various social settings. Often, these groupings composed of three or more female figures are the result of Button’s observations, conversations and personal experiences. Unlike the idols, these characters appear to be in common settings such as sitting on a bench, at a bar or inside a train. The various groups sometimes explore the isolation of a single individual within an otherwise crowded environment. This is the case of Possessed in which a woman is seating inside a train surrounded by people yet she is engaged in
solitary interaction with her cell phone device. Button isolates the woman via color contrast and exposes the reality of our common daily interactions. While the identity of this individual is secondary, one only ponders about the psychological loneliness within the context of a crowd. At times, we are also confronted with the otherness residing behind the social gatherings and the transitional passage between adolescence and womanhood.
In the words of American poet Carolyn Kizer “our masks, always in peril of smearing or cracking, in need of continuos check in the mirror” About Face sets the stage of our social personal drama in a seductive yet dynamic fusion of realities and illusions. Combined with mastery of execution, Corinna Button conquers our imagination by placing a perennial mirror into our collective
Curator / Director of Exhibitions
Zhou B Art Center, Chicago