Friday, November 12, 2010

Shary Boyle at the AGO

Shary Boyle is one of the very few Toronto-born artists who can say that their work has been featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario. And rarer still are the accolades that have been written about this show in the press. It is refreshing since it often seems that Canadians are slow to celebrate the talent of our own. And Shary is a huge talent, embracing a variety of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation to explore issues of gender, power relationships and the frightening nature of the everyday.

Flesh and Blood is the title of Shary Boyle's exhibition at the AGO which runs until December 5. Included in this exhibition are Shary's exquisite porcelain sculptures, haunting oil paintings, and subversive multi-media installations. Presented adjacent to the AGO's European Galleries, the juxtaposition of this work alongside old masters highlights the enormous talent of this young artist.

In her artist statement, she writes: "We must speak openly of the essential: the animals and women we have underestimated for so long, when will their reckoning be? Our burdens of self, the unshakable tendencies making a lifetime - weaving in and out of every relation. The ache of our bodies, sweet or painful. Violence and loneliness coursing through us all. Transient elegance like an offering. Our hunger for love and acceptance plays like a projection, forever interrupted by shadows."

Last year, I met Shary Boyle during an artist talk at the Toronto School of Art. Her singular devotion to her work is very evident in her description of a typical day at the studio where she often works 12 to 14 hours. Shary uses drawing as a part of her practice, often drawing from her imagination and using 8.5x11 photocopy paper, because it is "not precious".  She described the process of learning to make porcelain sculptures as somewhat accidental, having bought some self-drying clay to make miniature sculptures to help her through the experience of grieving after the suicide of a close friend,  Matthew David Stein. That tiny, meticulous, fragile sculpture was created just for herself, and led her to seek out porcelain sculpture as a means to express her ideas. These exquisite sculptures look beautiful from a distance, but on closer examination, reveal much more.

Cover of Otherworld Uprising by Shary Boyle, Conundum Press, 2008

The key piece of advice that I took away from meeting Shary was this. Shary said that an artist needs to "give yourself permission to understand your experience in the world, and know what is important and unique to you".  

Shary Boyle will be in the gallery at the AGO tomorrow, Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 130 pm to speak about her work. This show will close on December 5th and then will travel to Montreal's Galerie de l'UQAM from January 7 to February 12 and then on to Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery June 17 to August 21, 2011.

P.S. Although I will never come remotely close to the acclaim of this hugely talented artist, I did notice some uncanny parallels in my life to that of Shary Boyle's. We were both born in Scarborough, both crave solitude, both like to draw on un-precious bits of paper, both are multi-media artists, both obsessed with death and were both affected by Matthew David Stein (she knew him as a friend and I received the Matthew David Stein scholarship).