Using outmoded techniques such as woodcut and glass painting, Andrea Büttner (born Stuttgart, 1972, lives in London and Berlin) explores the enduring myths that cloak the fi gure of the artist. Büttner's prints bear self-deprecating statements – "I want to let the work fall down" or "I don't know what to do". These slogans hold a mirror up to a contemporary culture of 'shamelessness' – epitomised by the painful aspirations of reality television or in 'tell all' tabloid confessionals – and interrogate the potential dilemmas and pitfalls facing the artist in the expectant space of the gallery.
Büttner's interest in woodcut lies in its contradictory status as a medium that is fetishised for its involvement of the artist's hand (particularly in historical works by master craftsmen), but which is also by its nature expedient and democratic (and one of the earliest means developed for creating mass produced images). Büttner exploits the way the medium betrays every inaccuracy, and combines her aphorisms of failure with a technique where craft meets reproduction. The resulting images reflect what one critic described as "the emptiness of the codes by which our lives are defined". Religion is a recurring subject in Büttner's work, and she is influenced by historical figures such as Sister Corita Kent, whose artwork of the 1960s and 70s brought together both her religious and political beliefs. Büttner uses religious values as a lens through which to examine modern life, and for several years she has been observing the lives of a closed order of Carmelite nuns in Notting Hill, London. Initially making impromptu pencil sketches of the nuns at prayer, Büttner recently delved further into the art practice of these women in her short documentary film, Little Works (2007), which features in her Nought to Sixty exhibition. Unable to film within the walls of the convent, Büttner handed the camera to one of the sisters to record the making of 'little works' – small hand-crafted offerings made in the nuns' recreational time, ranging from crochet baskets to religious icons. While the nuns' concerns over the manufacture and display of their work are similar to the self-doubts of a professional artist, Little Works presents a wistful image of a creative microcosm untouched by the compromises of a secular age.
Büttner's project for Nought to Sixty brings together several prints, as well as a new series of photographs that revisit the Carmelite nuns. The documents of the nuns' recent works are displayed in and among Büttner's spatial interventions, while the walls of the gallery are daubed in brown paint as high as the artist can reach unassisted. Fresh clay sculptures nestle in corners of the gallery space, gradually drying out and disintegrating over the course of the exhibition. These bold elemental gestures evoke the physical presence of the artist, framing the project as an endless labour where completion and satisfaction are infinitely deferred.