the artful sampler

The Art of James Tebbutt

With a number of private sales and corporate commisions, the British painter James Tebbutt (b.1980) is behind a body of work that collectors find difficult to ignore.

The art is a wonderful mix of abstraction and figuration; and the visual vocabulary is a firework of high culture, cartoons and urban influences. We may regard this as bang up-to-date without Tebbutt subscribing to any fashion fad.

Yet in evolutionary terms, we might see Tebbut’s personal style as a logical mutation from our consumerist pop art as shared with a number of other artists in the west. But it may be worth looking east, because the colourful compositions are much closer to the Japanese ‘super flat’, without the same sinister point being made about society.

Tebutt’s mixed media painting style

The artist is clearly not scared of vivid colours. It is refreshing, and like Paul Gauguin, he takes a particular shine to pink and yellow.

Tebbutt’s method is similar to that of other art forms in our tautological post-modern society. E.g. much contemporary music mix samples everything past and present. In the same way James Tebutt applies snippets in his compositions. Even the medium is up for grabs. As it turns out the large-scale works have been painted in a mix of oil, acrylic, ink and spray paint.

The art is never intended to be pretentious conversation pieces, and there neither is a narrative nor a particular loud point being made anywhere. Still, within this playful mix, there are hints of environmental-, cultural- and political topics being addressed. However, there is always this deliberate degree of fuzziness. E.g. Mary had a little lamb may very well play a pun on Christianity, and the hunt say something about child soldiers. But we will never really find out, and in a sense is the beauty of it all. It is not that foreign a concept after all. For instance, the narrative economy of any good joke is best when you have to fill out some blanks yourself. Sometimes there is no meaning to project into it (and why must there be?). So you end up enjoying the art for the sheer hell of it.

Art that is a flow of thoughts

The interesting thing in all this is the dialogue between the ingredients applied to the works. The constituent parts are being added in a stream of consciousness very much like meandering conversations, or the free-association writing that authors use to combat writing blocks.

In that respect the artist knows where the painting begins, and clearly decides where it ends, but everything in between is as much down to chance as brief tactical planning. It may even run off on a tangent like jazz improvisation before it is covered over again with unsentimental stoicism.

The resultant paintings are not always planned through to completion before they are started but instead develop and evolve with a stream of consciousness which links the eclectic component images together

It is also evident that the painter keeps exploring varying styles of paint application. There is everything from the drip and splatter of the abstract expressionism – to the flat bold colour blocks, so characteristic of cartoons – to stencilling of street art. If you paint yourself, you know just how difficult these things gel together. The surprise that Tebbutt actually makes it work is not dissimilar to hearing about bacon and egg ice cream and other signature dishes of Heston Blumenthal.

You can find out more about the artist at his own website, and you might also be able to obtain his art via Saatchi Online

Image credits
All images by courtesy of the artist © James Tebbutt, all rights reserved

Top: (cropped for this article) The Hunt
Top right: Mary Had a Little Lamb
Middle right: Lets Dance
Bottom right: Katy and Franklin