Martin Boyce In Focus

A closer look at Turner Prize 2011 nominee Martin Boyce

Martin Boyce’s work draws on a wide range of influences, as much from the fields of architecture and design as that of art. His Turner Prize exhibition, evocative of a park landscape, contains a myriad of references to icons of Modernism: this is seen nowhere more clearly than in the centrepiece of the installation, a library table which was inspired by those designed by Jean Prouvé for the Maison de l’Etudiant in Paris. But to this quote, Boyce adds a further reference in the form of a hanging mobile, immediately evocative of work by Modernist artists such as Alexander Calder. The intricate handcrafted detail of the installation’s focal piece reveals the in-depth research into the history of design which underlies this piece and the scholarly nature of Boyce’s artistry.

 Another significant inspiration for this piece was the work of sculptors Joel and Jan Martel; a set of concrete trees designed for a Modernist garden in Paris in the 1920s has become transformed into a motif which can be found in several different elements of Boyce’s installation. It is up to the viewer to identify these repeated shapes in all their different incarnations, as some are extremely subtle,  not least the art-deco style vents which at first glance are not obviously part of the installation at all. This blending-in also forms part of Boyce’s conceptual framework; his work exists in dialogue with the architecture of the space in which it is exhibited. This is evidenced in the fact that the Baltic gallery space housing his installation contains a number of pillars; whereas some artists may have been concerned that these architectural features would detract from the impact of their work, Boyce does not share this worry.

Ultimately, in a space that is both organic and urban, something epitomised in the Constructivist, angular leaves scattered about the floor, Boyce presents us with a surreal dream-like vision of the Modern project.

Martin Boyce was born in Hamilton, Scotland, in 1967. He completed both his BA and MA at the Glasgow School of Art and still lives and works in the city. – © Maddie Bates  ArtLyst 2011


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