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Patricija Butkute on design, escapism, and artificial intelligence

By Celina Tran

Patricija Butkute is a Lithuanian 3D artist and designer based in London. Through her art, she explores escapism, as well as the confrontation between the known and unknown.

Bright white lights spill in from a window, a soft halo forming around Patricija Butkute’s fiery hair. Her face lights up and she waves. Against the sun’s beams, she looks perfectly refreshed.

“I am quite relaxed! I’m on easter break, which is nice because I’ve been so tired lately,” she says, her face splitting into a grin.

Butkute says she has always been a creative person, rarely seen without a sketchbook in her younger days. Her parents, who were very encouraging of her developing her own sense of style and creativity, would even let her draw on the walls of their home.

“Still, growing up with my dad designing furniture, I feel like he has passed his creative worldview and passion onto me. 3D art is my true love, but I could never be just an artist or a furniture designer, so I chose both paths,” she says.

“Though I often combine the two, I think of them as two very different fields and forms. Art is a very personal thing to many people, myself included. For me, I make art to provoke emotion and stimulate thoughts, I see it as a space for experimentation and self-expression, a place where I can share my thoughts with the world. Design, however, I see as a way of creating change.”

Inspiration, the “moments in between,” and creative blocks

Butkute’s natural curiosity and tendency to drift led her down many paths. She even studied medicine for a while but always eventually returned back to art.

“I suppose art was always an internal journey I couldn’t live without. My favourite thing in the world is when people react to my art, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, so this is the path for me,” she says. “As an artist, I want to evoke emotions, to inspire people to think and feel more. I like to use it to encourage people to think outside the world and provide new ways to escape reality, changing what’s within by transporting you to a different reality. Art has the power to inspire and transform, and can help us

become more rounded, creative, and empathic people.”

Though her art doesn’t have a set style, most of her pieces have themes of escapism and work to stretch and challenge the boundaries between the real and the surreal.

Aether by Patricija Butkute

“I tend to look to nature, organic shapes, pastel colours, soft materials – anything that can transport you to a space of relaxation or calmness. I search for what I call ‘moments in between,’ those small things and moments you don’t really notice, such as the washing machine’s sound or certain ways the light shines. These moments can bring tranquillity and nostalgia, things I try to translate into my work,” Butkute says.

“My creative process starts way before the idea. In my everyday life, I find a benchmark for inspiration. It can be anything from noises, textures, sensory experiences, and conversations. Then that initial thing inspires a feeling, which I develop into an idea. If it feels right, I continue with that idea. ”

From left: Meringue Flux Armchair and Having Visions by Patricija Butkute

When asked how she knows a piece is finished, Butkute pauses. She tucks a strand of perfectly straight, red hair behind her ear and shifts. She explains that she is a perfectionist, which makes it hard to ever complete a piece truly, but that she’s trying her best to let go of being overly detailed and polished.

“I’d rather create something a little undetailed and imperfect, than a hyperdetailed piece that lacks power. There’s no point in perfection if the piece doesn’t inspire anything,” she says. “I guess I just continue until my gut tells me differently. Finishing feels exciting but relieving.”

Like other artists, Butkute is prone to creative blocks. At the mention of them, she scrunches her nose slightly.

“They’re the worst!” she exclaims, before continuing. “When I get them, I separate myself from art completely and seek out other activities. I spend a lot of time swimming and in nature, they’re ways for me to be alone with myself and my thoughts. This in itself can spark inspiration, and after a while, the creativity luckily returns,” she says.

Solitude, social media, and artificial intelligence

Desert Dances by Patricija Butkute

When the art process is extra tough, Butkute says she prioritizes spending time with herself. To her, it’s a way of grounding herself and re-learning how to breathe when the world around her becomes a little too loud. She also explores this in some of her work, such as in the piece Solitude.

When she made Solitude, the artist was thinking about how social media has become an integral part of our lives. While it allows us to connect with so many people, it is also a constant presence that can negatively impact our mental health.

“I think solitude can play a vital role in restoring our inner balance and providing a break from the constant stimulation of social media. I incorporated the dance-like form because, to me, dancing can be a form of solitude, a way of introspection and self-expression and one’s own emotions, personal meditation,” says the artist.

Solitude is part of Desert Dances, a series that aims to further evoke tranquility. The Desert Dances pieces are partly made using generative artificial intelligence, a new tool Butkute has begun to experiment with. Her series Garden of Eden is also a generative one that reflects upon her recent experience with AI.

“I’m fascinated by the way technology works in art. The piece Generative Sculpture Curtains (from the Garden of Eden series) is my exploration of the relationship between technology and nature, and how they can come together to create something really cool,” she says.

Garden of Eden by Patricija Butkute

The word ‘AI’ has in recent times spread across the internet like wildfire, ranging from memes of “the Pope” and his puffer jacket to talks about consumer privacy, biased programming, and deepfakes. Many worries that AI takes away from human creativity and artistry. Last year, the New York Times reported about an AI-generated piece winning an art prize, sparking furious backlash among artists and art lovers on Twitter alike.

Butkute acknowledges that AI can be controversial in the creative industry, especially concerning potential job displacements and the spread of false information using the technology. She nonetheless thinks it’s important that people keep an open mind, saying that technology, as a tool, can augment an artist’s creativity and capabilities, much like Photoshop and other tools.

“AI-generated artwork can only be as good as the data it was trained on, and the algorithms used, while the final artwork is shaped by the artist’s creativity and vision,” she argues. “By using it responsibly and ethically, we can unlock new levels of creativity and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the art and design world.”

While she sees AI as a good creative tool, Butkute presses the importance of using it responsibly and that artists must be transparent about when and how they use AI in their creative processes. She also suggests avoiding perpetuating biases by using diverse and inclusive data to train the AI algorithms and testing the data and algorithm to quality-check the output.

“It’s very important that AI is used as a tool for enhancing creativity, and not as a replacement for human creativity. I also think it’s necessary to address potential job displacement concerns by developing strategies to support artists and creatives affected by AI adoption,” she says.

Combining art and design

Though she considers art and design very different things, she often unintentionally uses her creative artistic skills to create designs.

Mirage is a lamp I made after I first studied the use effects of water. Gazing at bodies of water can lower heart rate, and bring tranquillity and relaxation, which is why I was inspired to create something that embodies the feeling of looking at water. The lamp, which creates an optical illusion of water caustics and water shadows, is supposed to give you a break whenever you need it, during work or otherwise.”

Mirage by Patricija Butkute

Butkute was inspired by her father to create interior pieces, yet she can’t help but laugh when asked what her dad thinks of her furniture designs.

“My dad’s furniture is a lot more practical and reality-based, while I’m always in the clouds and drifting from reality, so my pieces can be a bit...different. It’s safe to say our artistry clashes a bit sometimes,” she says, releasing a breathy laugh. “That’s not to say he’s not incerdibly supportive though! He just finds them a bit unique, which they definitely are.”

Soft Spot is an example of an artistic furniture series you won’t find in any “normal” furniture store. The white-and-cream, fluffy living room pieces were inspired by the diverse world of desert animals, as well as the desert.

Soft Spot by Patricija Butkute

“These pieces explore the use of manmade materials to create products that embody the beauty and spirit of these animals, while also acknowledging the ethical concerns of the use of animal products in furniture design. I wanted to evoke a sense of adventure with this furniture, much like the wild and untamed nature of the desert mammals by bringing colours and textures from the desert into the piece,” she says.

“The piece is supposed to almost create an emersion of the natural world in a thought-provoking and intriguing way, challenging the normal approach to furniture design. I also want to encourage the viewers to combine nature and technology to create functional and aesthetically pleasing furniture that reflects our values and aspirations for a better future. Somehow, the viewing of a confident mammal, as opposed to a scared one, represents this better future.”

When asked if she’s planning on producing and selling any of these furniture or art pieces, a smile creeps up on her face.

“I’d certainly like to! I’ve just been verified as an artist in MakersPlace, which is a space for non-tangible and digital art,” she says. As for physical products, I definitely want to produce them one day. I don’t want to mass produce anything; I don’t see the value of that. It’s not about the money to me but creating art that draws out inspiration and emotion. I might create and sell individual pieces, though!”


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1 Comment

Apr 13, 2023

The "Garden of Eden" series is really cool, do you sell prints?

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