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Weight of butterfly

Blog post
Published: 28.06.2012


On certain nights of the year we hear large bogong moths thudding against the windows. Sir-crazy, Matilda careers around, batting at the glass, calling to them ― mewing and growling. These are solid creatures ― a meaty morsel, if you happen to be an owl (or cat). We also have cabbage moths, feasting in the vegetable garden and carrying on with their paper-white courting. Sometimes we are visited by more exotic species with beautiful turquoise wings. On summer nights the windows are covered with myriad winged creatures attracted to the light ― deltoid, sleek, spread-eagled, splotched. Then we are privileged with a view of their underside ― often every bit as complex and particular as the one they display to the world, or with which they attempt to camouflage themselves. Their life cycle is fascinating ― mind-boggling. Their mutable, ephemeral beauty, the symbolic potential of their metamorphosis, with its undeniable quality of enchantment, at least partly explains their almost universal role in myth and legend.


Several weeks ago I received a beautiful gift in the mail: Karin Johansson’s book Collecting Butterflies, which was released to coincide with her exhibition at Klimt02 Gallery earlier this year.

In a world that constantly clatters demands for our inevitably abbreviated attention, the spare sanity with which the the artist’s butterfly brooches are displayed in this book is a gift. Not that the brooches are not playful. They are. In their use of pattern and texture they become a lively part of our made environment and, unequivocally, ask to be worn. Butterflies flutter, apparently at random, or at the whim of winds. They flit, as we are coerced to do, from flower to flower to flower. They are typically insubstantial. (Our “flitting” weighs heavily on the world.) And these little butterflies, which I am imagining, as I have not had the joy of holding or wearing them, have a perceptible lightness to them. Although made from metal, they are dreamed lightly and made with delicacy. (As a fellow-maker, I know this to be a steely delicacy.) The abstraction of their flighty ephemeral nature to archetypal forms creates an apt aide-mémoire. The book itself ― inventive in its structure, instructive in its clarity ― is full of air and light. The butterflies depicted there ― the butterfly brooches ― rather than fluttering solo or in pairs, or massing for mutual protection or to feed ― are deployed with a cool hand ― almost clinically.  A cool hand, but, manifestly, an ardent spirit.


Photographs by Johan Hornestam