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Butterfly Bridge

“Butterfly and Bridge”: Joseph Campbell, Myth, Acrylics and Old Tea package Cards

“Butterfly Bridge”, Acrylic on canvas, 24 in x 18 in, Dec. 2016

I’ve been working on this painting for a couple of weeks and this is the final version.  I wanted to try out acrylic paint because of the quick dry quality.

I started with a flat red ground.

I haven’t got an image of the first drawn out stage, where I laid out the basic structure and composition in felt pen onto the canvas. It just gave me something to paint over in a free flowing and organic fashion. No straight lines.

I quickly realised that acrylic was working for me very well. The ability to paint over layer upon layer on top of more or less dry paint.

About this time I started reading a book by the world famous professor of mythology Joseph Campbell. “The power of Myth”

I knew of him previously but was absolutely bowled over by the profound overview and scope of his writing when I read him again.  The tricky part is making the leap from understanding the theory and ideas underpinning Campbells writing and acting effectively in terms of one own work.

Joseph Campbell; 1984

By reading this book I kickstarted (at some level) a whole load of ideas and inspiration about dualism and and the creation mythology around the fall from grace.  I don’t just want to illustrate these ideas and so I continue to borrow from whatever rears its head in my mind. Hence the tea package cards with their rather arbitrary collector type feel. They must be 50 or 60 years old but at the same time introduce something very personal to the picture that I want to use in the present to anchor the painting. They are from a suitcase in my cellar retreived from my Dads house after he died a few years ago. It is a quirky reference to the technology versus nature dynamic with the butterfly and the racing car trapped in their respective frames. The car is old fashioned however and nothing like a modern Formula One car. The butterfly is pinned in place on the tea package card whilst flourishing on the right hand side of the picture and able to fly away free on the rest of the painted surface.  The car is a little more ambiguous for its antique nature and conjours up ideas about the transition of technology as well as the need for something dynamic and “outside the frame”.

I wanted the picture to be beautiful in the first instance whilst always knowing that meaning would demand to be heard.

I hope that a kind of dualism does emerge here and state something reassuring about the past and the present. The idea is I suppose that the World is made of opposites that grow and mature over time out of the chaos and beauty. Whilst at the same time our focus of interest can be eccentric and unpredictable. Demanding its own status and the right to be quirky if it wishes.  I want to hint at something a bit archeological here, that gets the viewer thinking. Are those perfect butterflies that we revere only one side of a coin that is flipped in this imperfect world of opposing forces that we live in? Is the technological flip side something we are willing to harbour and if so how do we deal with its precocious need to change so dramatically?

“Butterfly Bridge”, Acrylic on canvas, 24 in x 18 in, Dec. 2016

Bob Claytor Dec. 2026