Bev Butkow was born in Johannesburg into a family of second-generation Eastern European immigrants, holds a degree in Chartered Accountancy from Wits University, and is a self-taught artist, obsessed with learning and innovation.
She exhibited for the first time at Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg in 2013. Since then, her work has been featured on several group exhibitions, including the 2014 Top 100 Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards. She won a Merit Award at the 2015 SA Taxi Foundation Art Award, resulting in her artwork being reproduced onto 10 minibus taxis. She was selected as one of nine “Young Talented Artists” for the Fresh Produce Exhibition and mentorship programme at this year’s Turbine Art Fair.
Her inaugural solo exhibition titled m/other held at Lizamore & Associates in July 2015 was both a commercial and critical success.
She works from her studio at Assemblage in Newtown, Johannesburg, blocks away from where, decades before, her beloved grandfather peddled eggs at the Fresh Produce Market.
My intention is to draw the viewer into works that surprise or enthral by pushing the boundaries of the visual and physical properties of my media to open a conversation; to create a point of connection. I think of my work as a form of story telling. Process and making are crucial aspects of my practice. In its multiple textures, my work reflects dual impulses – tenderness and care, but also an unrelenting determination to push the medium to new limits.
The two distinctly opposing concepts of mothering (nurturing, protection, warmth and belonging) and othering (being outside, alien, different, displaced, a sense of non-belonging) come together in my latest body of work through a concurrent presentation of form and fragmentation.
My depictions of girls in states of striving and submission point to the existential realities of gender inequality and the denial of access to education and opportunity experienced by so many girls in South Africa. I am interested in the effects of the human tendency toward stereotyping and discrimination – the labels we apply to others to exclude them from our world and the fine line between othering and the extreme oppression and violent exclusion that informed apartheid and the Holocaust.