Familiars 1992

By Zoe Whitley. 

Familiars 1992 is an installation comprising three separate parts that are displayed together. These elements are individually titled Substance Sublimation UnitHypostasis and Cradle. The collective title for the work refers to the name given to the mythical shape-shifting spectres said to accompany witches. It is also the title of an artist’s book, which was Butt’s last project, published posthumously in 1996 by Iniva and the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. The work was made in collaboration with scientists and technicians at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, part of the University of London. One of the collaborators was Stephen Ramsay, a chemistry research technician and specialist in scientific glassblowing, who fabricated the glass components. They were made at the Chemical Engineering Department of Imperial College, with assistance from both the department of Physical Chemistry and the Toxic Laboratory concerning the use of the halogens included in the work: iodine, bromine and chlorine. Butt himself trained as a biochemist before going to study art at Goldsmiths College, London, where his contemporaries included Gary Hume (born 1962) and Damien Hirst (born 1965).

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Danger: artist at work

By David Lister

It smells, it rots, it leaks. Contemporary art is fast becoming a health hazard.

The "hazardists" are taking their place among art movements of the 20th century, with hazardism evident at most of the major galleries.

As installation artists use dead animals and poisonous gases, so visitors to exhibitions are having to ask themselves not only "Is it art?", but "Is it safe?"

At the weekend, more than 100 visitors and staff were evacuated from the Tate Gallery's Rites Of Passage exhibition after iodine gas leaked from a sculpture by Hamad Butt.

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Hamad Butt

By Stuart Morgan

A sense of danger pervades Hamad Butt's work. Incorporating its own ultraviolet illumination in the form of desklamps, his previous installation, Transmission (1990), consisted of a ring of books with glass pages, each with the same strange figure etched somewhere in it. Because the books lay open at different places, the shape seemed to rise to the surface as the viewer watched. It was the outline of a triffid from John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids and the impression was given that it had been summoned by the very creation of such a circle, made only a block away from the British Museum Reading Room. Having been broached in this piece, notions of scholarship and of summoning spirits recur in Butt's new, three-part work, Familiars, where once more potential loss of control is crucial...

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Rite of Passage

Art for the End of the Century

By Jaki Irvine

... Outside this room, in the careful bright daylight of the Tate, Hamad Butt's constructions of metal and heated elements and pale yellow gases trapped in spherical glass containers have been attached to the white walls and suspended over the shiny wooden floor. Signs warn of the danger of tampering with them while someone stands nearby to ward off this possibility. In these carefully controlled conditions the rarefied atmosphere about these pieces seems to have fossilised them somewhat, so that the beauty of 105 the work's potential danger feels neutered. Fragile elements hint silently at other things, yearning for some kind of alchemical solution that gets lost in the elegance of its articulation. Impossible not to feel a kind of nostalgia for less illustrious surroundings within which these pieces could, under threat, function differently by exercising their own. Impossible too not to mark the loss of so young an artist to an AIDS-related illness.

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Review on Transmissions

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