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South Africa | Johannesburg
28.12.2020   |  Art And About Africa

About Bev Butkow

Bev Butkow started making art in her mid-40s and is now a full-time artist after a successful 20-year career in finance; what started as a hobby has become more serious and since 2014 Bev has been developing as an artist and gaining international recognition.


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Portrait of Bev Butkov; Photo by Anthea Pokroy

Born and based in Johannesburg with her husband and four children, Bev is deeply committed to social engagement, not only as a maker and communicator but also as a social actor and global citizen, encouraged to face society’s problems.


She evidenced her bravery in her radical career change from finance to artmaking, following this by returning to university on a whim at age 48: she’s currently finishing her Masters in Fine Arts at Wits which she considers an exciting and challenging process of pulling apart her artmaking, coupled with deep analysis and self-reflection.

The process of creative research uses her mother-artist-women-wife-student-citizen body as the protagonist, and through the process, she explores the experiences sedimented and entangled within it.

Untitled XIV (Traces Of Labour series), 2019 Silkscreen Monotype (Screenprint). Photo Anthea Pokroy

Butkow uses processes of making like weaving and painting to knot and entangle, creating forms that she calls embodied-entanglements. These forms, which simultaneously hold together and fall apart, giving texture to her life experiences and conflicting roles of career and mothering. These networks of contradictory pulls and tensions map the everyday reality of many women and the frenetic balancing act of their lives. As with many women, her everyday reality is experienced through the pulls and demands of work, motherhood, relationships, family, economic, social and communal commitments. According to her, weaving is “mesmerizingly rhythmic, an intimate exchange between my hands, body, materials and process”: through each mark within the surface, Butkow considers her embodied experiences, giving visible form to the invisibility of much female labour.

She considers herself a painter, using weaving as a way to disrupt the painted surface, which she disrupts to challenge and break down expectations that are socially coded into women. Rather than engaging in the head’s analytical processes, being an artist allows her to integrate her body with its senses, intuition and perception and her artmaking materials.


Stacked weaves and close-up with red fluff on top left: Detail - embodied-entanglements (site-specific installation). 2020. Photo © Bev Butkow

Stacked weaves and close-up with red fluff on top left: Detail – embodied-entanglements (site-specific installation). 2020. Photo © Bev Butkow

Her research works with tensions, juxtaposing contradictory elements like creative against intellectual processes; flat rhythmic planes of woven surface in tension with dimensional structures; weaving against painting. Her woven/painted forms grow to take up space as she invests time and energy in them. She grows them in this way to claim space, and she implores other women to do the same. To claim space. Embodied-making like this creates space to think through how bodies relate to other bodies, materials, objects, structures. Using her female body in her creative process allows her to rethink and remap relationships to communities, society, context and place in the world. This creates expansionary possibilities for new and unconstrained ways to be.

Hanging weave: Emerging, disappearing, refusing the Invisibility Cloak II. 2019. Photo Anthea Pokroy

Words of Linda Crestale from the Bev Butkow’ interview.


About Bev, Butkow is part of the weekly column “Women” dedicated to the women involved in the Continent art scene.
The column aims to give space to women in or connected to the continent’s art scene. A space in which experiences, opinions and realities can be read and relished by everyone, focused on women and their empowerment.

Suggest the woman you know and esteem related to the Continent art scene her to us!

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