Canadian (born in U.S.A.), b. 1938
Mother and Child, 1980
oil, India ink on canvas, cotton fabric
147.7 x 127.5 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Myrna Ferguson
In the mid-1980s Sheila Butler’s work began to change and was marked by a more mature expressive style, where elusive figures are delineated by dark contour lines. The WAG painting is an example from this period, where the artist was continuing to explore the intersections between relationships and the unconscious mind. Butler’s exquisite drawing ability is particularly evident in the handling of the child figure. Although similar in content to many paintings of mother-and-child scenes, Butler defies tradition by presenting the woman as almost unaware or as ambivalent to the state of the child. In doing so, this work shifts expected emotions evoked by this type of imagery from uncompromising bonds of love and attachment to dysfunctional alienation and abandonment.