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Benjamin Butler

On the Lake

The SoArt Residency at Lake Millstatt

For six weeks during May and June of 2023, Benjamin Butler was an artist-in-residence at SoArt on Lake Millstatt (Millstätter See) in Austria.  The post-modernist studio building on the picturesque lake is a five hour drive from Butler’s home and studio in Vienna, on a piece of land accessible primarily by boat. With the live/work space directly on the water, and large picture windows looking out at the mountains, Butler’s conceptual approach to landscape painting moved into new territory.

This edition of looks at Butler’s time living and painting on the lake. With photos taken during his stay, and personal reflections written upon his return home, we’re given an inside view of the painter’s process and thinking as he created a new body of work.  We focus on four paintings made at the residency in various tones of black and white, gray and silver.  Butler’s characteristic confident brushwork is on full display, as he translates the scenes around him into abstract form.







When I arrived at the lake in early May, I could quickly see that the landscape itself would provide almost everything that I would need.  Internet image searches of ‘mountain, lakes, and forests’ would no longer be necessary. May was a very rainy month with sometimes choppy waters, but together with my fellow artists-in-residence, writer Barbi Markovic and painter Robert Muntean, we managed to cross the lake several times both for food and for recreation. Because there were no art supply stores in the area, my single car load of materials had to be carefully planned beforehand.

The rainy weather also had an affect on the appearance of the landscape.  It was always changing, offering seemingly endless possibilities.  Moonlight reflected beautifully on the water and sunsets were sublime.  There were sunny days, and torrential downpours, insect invasions, visits from swans and snakes, and creaking noises in the night.  I took a lot of photographs of the lake and surrounding landscape, made simple line drawings from selected photographs, and used these drawings as a starting point for the oil paintings.

My live-work studio was designed by Austrian architect Hans Hollein.  It was built with 3 interior levels: studio/kitchen, bath, and bedroom.  The post-modern, industrial-influenced structure was situated just 10 feet from the lake’s edge.  Within the angular and leaning architecture there were large glass doors that provided a picturesque view of the water’s surface, as well as the surrounding mountains, clouds, and trees.

There were no white walls in the studio, which required some getting used to.  I found myself viewing the paintings as they leaned against the glass doors.  The flickering lake water became the background for my work and also something for me to measure the paintings’ strength against.  This was not an easy battle, competing directly with nature in real time. It also had a direct influence on the direction of the work that I made at the residency.  The majority of the paintings echoed the water’s surface with stylistically ‘impressionist’, ‘pointillist’, or ‘digital’ horizontal brushstrokes, and with a limited palette of silver and black.  I am definitely not a plein air landscape painter, but I did enjoy putting the paintings on an easel outside, just to take pictures.  These photographs were, for me, souvenirs of my time at Lake Millstatt, or maybe the paintings were the real mementos.

– Benjamin Butler, 2023







Lake Landscape 1-4, 2023

Benjamin Butler’s time on Lake Millstatt was spent drawing and painting, influenced by his surroundings. The gallery is pleased to offer four new abstractions of light, water, and mountains, titled Lake Landscape 1-4.

BB1427, Benjamin Butler
Lake Landscape 1, 2023
oil on linen
40 × 50 cm (15 ¾ × 19 ⅝ inches)


BB1428, Benjamin Butler
Lake Landscape 2, 2023
oil on linen
40 × 50 cm (15 ¾ × 19 ⅝ inches)


BB1429, Benjamin Butler
Lake Landscape 3, 2023
oil on linen
40 × 50 cm (15 ¾ × 19 ⅝ inches)


BB1430, Benjamin Butler
Lake Landscape 4, 2023
oil on linen
40 × 50 cm (15 ¾ × 19 ⅝ inches)







Lake Gosau, 2022

See images of Benjamin Butler’s most recent exhibition at Klaus von Nichtssagend in 2022.

A catalog for the show is available here.

Visit Exhibition Page

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