Boyle Family: Contemporary Archaeology

Boyle Family: the Barcelona Site, World Series Artists tend to be solitary creatures but, in reality, many works of art require collaboration and team work. The named artist has the inspiration and designs the work, but often they are supported by “assistants” and others to create the work. This is certainly the case with sculptures where larger works would remain as ideas or small maquettes without the support of assistants (usually skilled artists themselves) and,  artisan craftsmen (e.g. specialist foundries). These people who are vital to the creation of the work remain anonymous wile the headline artist laps up the fame and glory. The Boyle Family are an exception to this in that they really are a family – parents and children – who work as a collective. Their website gives details on how this evolved. They are particularly well known for their recreations of random squares of ground, realistically recreated from fibreglass together with sand, stones, bits of metal and other objects representative of the setting. Abbot Hall are currently showing a selection of their works in the exhibition – Boyle Family: Contemporary Archaeology. The main focus of the exhibition are works created for The World Series Lazio Site, from 2013, the most recent of their on-going World Series project. It includes

earth studies, electron microphotographs and video that provide a compelling and arresting visual record of the surface of the land, the plant life, insect life and the presence of the artists themselves. Accompanying this work will be earth studies from the previous decade, including the first public showing of their Coral Quarry Triptych from 2001-2

Their landscape works are incredible in the detail and look so real. Looking at the comments in the guest book for the exhibition it’s quite clear that I’m not the only person who wants to touch them (forbidden, of course!). This is a reproduction of a rusting metal plate

Boyle Family, Study of Rusting Metal Plate, 2001-2

and this is an example of one of their works featuring a section of beach. Boyle Family, Coral Quarry Triptych (3 of 3), 2001-2

There’s a tremendous amount of detail too which illustrates just how much we don’t “see” when we look at the ground. Taken in isolation and divorced from their location and environment we can really start to observe how much there is to see. These works are realistic  – but taken out of their environmental context they’re like abstract patterns. Their work concentrates on the landscape,but not just that of the Earth. They also explore the biological landscape – plants, animals and humans. To do this they use electron micrographs – massively enlarged pictures of insects, plants and human hairs and cells that reveal complex and interesting forms and patterns otherwise invisible to the human eye. There were some examples in the exhibition. I found them fascinating – like their geographical works they are, to me, at the interface of art and science. Given my scientific education, work and interests in both of CP Snow’s “two cultures”. CA full “catalogue” of the works shown from the Lazio site can be viewed here. There was a documentary showing on a loop. It provided good background and context to their work and was well worth watching. Mark Boyle, the father, who died in 2005, was certainly a character. I couldn’t find a copy online but di locate a short video from their exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2010. Part of the TateShots Edinburgh Special, August 2010.

1 thought on “Boyle Family: Contemporary Archaeology

  1. Pingback: BOYLE FAMILY: CONTEMPORARY ARCHAEOLOGY │ Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal → 14 March 2015 | A SHORT SPEL OF ARTOGRAPHY

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