Artist to Collect: Hadyn Butler
written by Hugh Kruzel
The temptation to label the glass works of Hadyn Butler as a modern take on a traditional art, or as a decorative architectural accessory, would miss the inventiveness and narrative that is beyond a plane both appealing and vibrant. Electric, bold transparencies that explore fundamentals of the focal subject are as much about Hadyn’s analysis of culture as his own personality. His remarkable stained glass art, establishes him as a colourist, and he embraces this in stunningly skillful ways. This is his take on the world, his perception, his understanding and his impressions articulated. "It is without a doubt exploring me and my place in the world," he admits. Because of this, Hadyn has frequently captured current affairs and global disposition without even aiming to do so. While both print and online definitions of stained glass offer the basic constructs of how, what and where, Hadyn’s art is untethered from a narrow history and habit. It is true that his works retain the original ingredients of contrasting mosaic fragments organized within a soldered copper foil framework, but again Hadyn seems insistent on being an iconoclast. Is his art decorative? Pictorial? Abstract? Are his themes saints, sinners, patrons, leaders, harbingers? Does he draw from classical tales of struggle, downfall or survival? Are his works to be viewed in grand venues? Has he examined heraldic elements? Does flora or fauna have a role, or occupy corners as motifs and mentions of context? Are they symbolic? If all this defines the tradition of doing stained glass then, yes, he conforms; but he finds inventive ways of expression. Go further into a mind that can with agility play with leitmotifs of mathematics, geology, literature, physics, and you begin to comprehend the layers of ideas that are beyond what is seen. Certainly, Hadyn uses coloured glass, but in ways that are unique and unexpected. There is something new and novel in his sometime incorporation of clarity in background transmission; a kaleidoscopic playfulness is the result. Textural and transparent pieces of glass also have an interesting role in his over-arching philosophy of understanding when
a piece is done. "When it is right I don’t improve results by forcing more. Figuring out technique, methodology and presentation for some of this is intuitive, however, does anything really happen by chance?" Hadyn is right in acknowledging that there are so many ways to interpret the consequences of such creativity. "If someone comes up to you and says ‘what’s that?’ then you have not done it right!" Through her studio space on Lorne Street in Sudbury, Ontario, Mary Lou Fabbro, Hadyn’s life partner, has been an essential facilitator – in that the shop has been a launch pad for decades to those who have taken up glass craft as a hobby. It was here, some three decades ago, that Hadyn, a professional geologist, began his journey in glass art. Commissions and repairs are done by colleague Jack Dardick, an independent artist in his own right. This is clearly an active workshop as well as a gallery. Mary Lou offers an insider’s take on Hadyn’s artistic gift: "Hadyn pulls out the person. He creates not just a face in stained glass. In utilizing colour, or how the image is structured, we get a reflection of the character, what they have done, who they are. Hadyn expresses the subject’s intellect, and soul." Hadyn is inspired by musicians, artists, scientists, authors as well as powerful emotions and passions but, for him, his signature way of imagining, working and producing captures essence better
than any other media. He also accepts that because much of what happens in his building of a panel is an iterative process, he will at times be redoing sections and pieces; selecting new colour elements, or rethinking or rebuilding entire areas. "Light is the co-contributor to what I do. So, when ready, I place it in the window and wait, and watch. You have to live with it before you can call it complete. I willingly alter mistakes when I’m not satisfied with the resultant effect." From selection of an image, a highly precise map is developed of patterns and pathways. And always with an end goal being considered, you can see Hadyn’s mind working on ways to achieve more than representation. Translating his vision first with pencil on paper, then striking stronger marks and sidebars, the work evolves from a central spot to outer edges. Bent over a light table, Hadyn snaps a shard and looks up: "Mandelbrot influenced me. Fractals show up in much of what I do. Fibonacci sequences or other theories might be the best answer to the problem at hand. Maybe all of this together is my solution to how to achieve best results. I have to square what is in my head with what happens." If you believe stained glass is essentially a two-dimensional surface, then guess again. Look through and beyond. Depth – the third element – is not the last; add time! From minutes to seasons,
the environment impacts your viewing. Hadyn’s stained glass creations celebrate individual and group achievements, energy and consciousness, but they also consider what is going on outside and external to the panel’s location. It is through the passage of the planet from dark to daylight, and twilight to twinkle, where you see best the dynamic of his choices in composition. Step to the left or right and the background changes. Clouds pass, leaves and trees move and the quality of the light-intense beams of summer sparkle, the flat grey of fall, the intense blue of winter's depths, the gold glow after a spring shower is additive or subtractive of value and hue. "I have learned how to use elements that are outside, and then visualize the amount of, and effects of, refraction and diffusion of this on the glass. Getting it right doesn't always happen just like that," muses Hadyn. "I see something and I try to solve it. What can I do with this thing? Curiosity. And you can’t force it. You have to let the back of the unconscious mind work." From inside their northern Ontario lakeside home, the south and west illumination offers a punch of brilliance as the sun arcs right. Through any of the panels on display, colours pop. Then, in the diminishing light of an early winter day, as the sun sinks below the Canadian Shield horizon, first one and then more slices of cut glass seem to wink off, becoming mysterious. "I use values, complimentary colour, and I try to grasp where light is going to be coming from. It is almost a magician’s trick to do what I do when matching and fitting." When asked why he does portraits, Hadyn is typically Hadyn: "I wanted to do them, as it was a major challenge. There were no books on this technique when I started. I certainly do people representing the broad spectrum of arts and sciences (a custom in stained glass) and explore and express what has made them notable, famous, worthy. I see something and it becomes part of me. The idea of the image is embedded. Yes, 95% of what I do now are portraits." Fortunately, there was a possibility to interview someone who has commissioned a work by Hadyn. At the home of Louise and Fritz
left, Whisperers, stained glass, 26" x 42" above, Bliss, stained glass, 23" x 48"
Francis Alys "Sometimes Making Something Leads To Nothing", stained glass, 46" x 25"
Helping Hand, stained glass, 24" x 44"
left, Origin, About To Happen & Debt, stained glass, 24" x 50" right, Soul Catcher, stained glass, 24" x 45"