About the Artist
Alfons Bytautas is a painter & printmaker. Born in Scotland and now based in Newcastle upon Tyne, he studied at Edinburgh College of Art (1972-77) before going to Paris to study at Atelier 17, the studio of the esteemed Modernist printmaker Stanley William Hayter.
Bytautas was Master Printmaker at Edinburgh Printmakers' Workshop from 1979 to 2009, where he was instrumental in developing and promoting innovative print techniques. He has directed numerous workshops, demonstrating these methods, throughout the UK and in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain & Japan.
In 1994 he was elected an Associate Member of the Royal Scottish Academy, becoming a full Academician in 2006.
His work is represented in many public & private collections in the UK, Europe and USA.
I don’t think of the images I make as being either abstact or figurative. I am trying to free myself of any preconceived notions concerning the making of art, such as what constitutes representational or non-representational art. Geometrical figures are mostly perceived as being “abstract” in art and there is often an underlying geometrical system underpinning many of my works – a simple grid. Making a grid structure is a simple and elegant way of imposing order.
The grid structure also emphasizes the essentially two-dimensional nature of the artwork, working against any attempt to create illusory space. It is also immensely helpful in creating pattern and is a useful tool for exploring any number of things from mathematical progression to colour contrasts.
It is also suggests play and the grid structure is a fundamental aspect of many board games (often with very ancient origins).
For all of us, play is a useful activity for freeing the mind and for tapping into unconcsious creativity.
Alfons Bytautas 2021
As I remember making some when I was a secondary school pupil, I would have made my first collages over fifty years ago!
I really can’t remember who or what inspired me to make these, but it was probably a book (still in my possession) by artist & writer Fred Gettings. Purchased in 1969, “You Are an Artist” has a chapter on collage with illustrations of work by Kurt Schwitters and Joe Tilson. Elsewhere in the book is a reproduction of a Joan Eardley painting with collage additions.
As a student at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1970’s, I was influenced by Surrealism and soon discovered the work of Max Ernst. Some sketchbooks from this time contain collages that are heavily indebted to his work.
But my interests changed and I became principally a landscape artist (painter & printmaker) and the collage work became a thing of the past.
Around 2005, after many years of working as a figurative artist, I began to cautiously explore abstract art. This new approach evolved from the colour notebooks (with collage elements) that I kept then, as well as the numerous small trial etchings I would make. Designed to test materials & techniques, these were executed rapidly and, of necessity, were “abstract” in nature.
In time, my new interest in abstraction allowed me to rediscover my love of collage. My works are rarely made as pure collage as I prefer to use the technique in combination with painting or, to a lesser extent, with drawing. Collage encourages me to adopt an irrational approach to image making, welcoming chance and accident as sources of inspiration.
I work with painted papers (much as Matisse did) as well as printed sources and lots of glue! Although complex images can result from the use of layering techniques, it is probably the fundamental simplicity and immediacy of collage that still really appeals to me.