Carly Butler is an interdisciplinary artist whose studio practice reflects on our relationship to the sea, using the subjects of navigation and survival to reflect on longing, location, regret, and nostalgia.
Often inspired by the writings of philosophical French solo sailor Bernard Moitessier, and Nova Scotian sailor Joshua Slocum, Butler also references nautical instructions and manuals from a number of sources such as, ‘Weather for the Mariner’ and various volumes of the British ‘Admiralty Manual of Navigation’ from 1965 and on. Moitessier was most famous for abandoning his chance to win the first solo non-stop circumnavigation – sending a message by slingshot to a passing freighter explaining that he was continuing around again ‘to save my soul.’ Slocum was the first person to ever sail around the world alone, and saw navigating using a chronometer (clock) as unnecessary ‘technology’, preferring traditional methods using the stars. If the sea has something to teach us, then it was Moitessier and Slocum who epitomized its lessons.
Slocum and Moitessier’s writings about sailing serve as the catalyst for her current body of work as they bridge the technical with the philosophical, making us aware of layers of meaning to be found in the most seemingly banal instructions for surviving life alone on the ocean.
The works themselves often range from literal reinterpretations of nautical sailing instructions to more romantic translations that might apply to life on land. Taken out of context, they embody a sense of abject humour, poking light fun at our distance from various forms of knowledge (such as weather codes, navigation and survival) by encouraging new interpretations and playing with words.
In addition to re-purposing nautical objects (life raft, anchor, and compass for example) Butler also work son canvas and panel, using drywall compound to allude to this gap in knowledge and experience: the confines of domestic life and lack of practical survival skills versus the unfulfilled dreams of transcending conventional living through adventure and travel at sea.
The Index Error series of photographs are shot through a sextant and reveal the error inherent when the direct horizon and reflected horizon do not line up. As a picture of an inaccurate reading of location, the work speaks of failed navigation and our inability to locate ourselves.
Through new GPS and smart phone technology we always know exactly where we are, but we often have no idea where that actually is.
Carly has an MA in Art History and studied fine art at Central Saint Martins in London. She recently completed a BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and was a finalist for the prestigious RBC Canadian Painting Competition in 2014. Recent exhibitions include Terroir at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Bedlam and Balance at ArtYard in Frenchtown, New Jersey.