Emma Paulet - Is it a Butterfly?

I am predominantly a dabbler who is guided by intuition and a love of texture. I’m a member of the Good on Paper collective and regularly exhibit with them, as well as in other group exhibitions. My art is generally two-dimensional, consisting of explorations in anything, but I have begun to branch out into 3D.

Recently mind-blown by John Archibald Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment (proposed in the late ’70s), which shows that how we choose to look at light can retroactively affect how the light behaves, I would like to offer that reality is perhaps stranger than we realise – especially when we’re not paying attention to it – and that naïve artwork can represent these strange possibilities.

With the title of this artwork, ‘Is it a butterfly?’, I aimed to invoke the questions associated with (fictionalised) public sightings of DC Comics’ Superman: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” – seeing something not of this world (like Superman in flight) that resembles something of this world (a bird or plane). In this case, however, I have chosen to depict what on first glance looks like a child’s rendering of a butterfly, containing thick lines and solid colours. Take a closer look, and you will see that the butterfly does not adhere to all the characteristics that should make it ‘butterfly’. For instance, it has too many wings, and it isn’t immediately clear if the eyes are markings to deflect attack from predators or actual eyeballs. Consider that a biblically-accurate angel is described as having six wings and being covered in eyes – and so the child’s rendering of a butterfly becomes a child’s rendering of a biblically-accurate angel. And whom but a child could so readily accept such a vision?


  • Emma Paulet - Is it a Butterfly?
  • "Look Up!" Group Exhibition
  • 2024
  • Block-print acrylic ink and oil pastel on bamboo stock (10% cotton; 265gsm)
  • 23 x 23.5 cm
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