Tuesday, 14 August 2012

'Views' by Boyd and Evans

'Clee Hill' oil on canvas, 137 x 152cms, 2009
I visited ‘Views’, a retrospective of the work of Boyd and Evans at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham the other day. There was a lot to enjoy in the paintings of these artists, who are also partners, who work together to creation their work. The earlier work made in the 1970’s, and airbrushed on in acrylic paint, explored an interest in surrealist ideas associated with collage and piecing seemingly disparate images or elements to create slightly disturbing and dreamlike juxtapositions. Narrative was also seemingly explored with many of the paintings existing as diptych’s, with the second image often looking like the next scene in some sort of movie, partly helped by the photographic ‘look’ of the paintings. I couldn’t help feeling rather disappointed and deflated however, when in an interview that accompanied the work in the gallery pamphlet, the artist’s proclaimed that if photoshop had been invented when they originally made the work, they would have not been paintings. They would have looked awful as photoshopped images. Weirdly, most of the paintings had a 1970’s prog rock record sleeve feel about them. 
'Underpass', acrylic on canvas, 91 x137cms, 1983
The later work was less personal in nature, and was inspired by trips the artist’s had made with the support of the British Council to some of the more remote areas of the United States and the spectacular nature to be found there. These landscapes were punctuated by human activity in the form of desolate towns, abandoned vehicles, trailers, the odd person, and areas of UFO sightings. I enjoyed these more, and made me reflect on my own forthcoming trip to Scandinavia, where I too will be exploring unfamiliar terrain as a visitor, an ‘outsider’, whereas most of my current landscape work has been located in more personal settings and my ‘own back yard’. The Boyd and Evans work did often look like paintings that owed too much to their photographic source material for my own tastes. They had a dispassionate quality, and lacked a certain charge despite (or because of) the psychology being layed on a bit thick, that I hope to avoid, despite often taking a seemingly dispassionate view myself in my approach to my subject matter. There were some very sophisticated images, but they weren’t very exciting paintings. The photographs that were also now being presented worked more successfully.
 'Ash Springs', Archival Pigment Transfer Print, 110 x 199cms, 2007
I left the exhibition not entirely convinced, but a little unsure as to why. At one point the work seemed a lot about the relationship between painting and photography, but then not so much in the later work. The work was painted in a very mundane way with a deliberate lack of style, but really I wished it had a bit more well, style. There was a lot made about the collaboration between the two artists, and the idea of two viewpoints in the work, who made what etc, but I didn’t care much for this and thought the work possessed a single unified vision if anything. I bought the catalogue hoping to find more in the concepts behind the work, but didn’t really. As with a lot of contemporary art that is held up as good practice, I was left wanting more…It might be worth stating that I did experience this exhibition with my lively little four-year old in tow. It might be worth a second visit on my own…

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