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Uptown Magazine, Page 14, January 11, 2007

Simple and Effective

Paul Butler asserts the strength and promise of artists

By Stacey Abramson

The Semai Gallery is not a typical gallery space.

Situated in the hallway next to Keepsakes Gallery on McDermot Avenue, the gallery - its name means 'narrow' in Japanese - is a pleasant surprise, a corridor of new possibilities for artists.

The gallery was begun in July 2006 by recent art-school grad Takashi Iwasaki and has already hosted six exhibitions featuring some of Winnipeg's best-known artists. Local favourites such as Craig Love, Don Ritson and Cyrus Smith have exhibited at Semai, providing that Iwasaki is thinking of fast and big.

The latest show presents the work of local boy Paul Butler, whose collage parties have taken him all over the world and garnered media coverage and praise. In addition to making his own work and hosting collage parties, Butler also runs Other Gallery, where he represents a list of some of Winnipeg's most innovative young artists.

The phrase "Power to the artist" shines out of a single light box at the end of the passageway at Semai. Butler has chosen a minimalist esthetic - simple shape, uncomplicated font, red and white palette.

The box is all that appears in the gallery. This may sound simple, but the message and visual effect are anything but.

Walking into the space, the viewer is struck b the power of the work. Everything is controlled by the artist. The lighting is dimmed, the walls are bare, and it's silent - but the message is booming. The phrase sits illuminated, slightly smirking, giving a quiet 'fuck you' to any run-of-the-mill show.

This piece is a departure from Butler's signature DIY collages, but it's very much in line with his ideas of making, dealing and showing art. He brings an awareness of the struggles and problems artists face and presents these in a very down-to-earth yet professional manner.

Artists have multiple outside factors affecting their work - how much they produce, what they make, for whom they make a piece - but this show is purely for artists, by an artist. It is not trying to please patrons, although it inevitably will. It is advocating for something at the core of creation, which makes the phrase strike a chord with any artist in any medium.

Butler is shouting a call for a revolution, a call that is sharp, potent and full of promise for a generation of artists who want to make art for art's sake.