by BK Munn
Toronto artist Shary Boyle has been named as Canada’s chosen representative to the prestigious 55th International Art exhibition at the Venice Biennale for 2013, according to Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada in a surprise announcement Friday night at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art Toronto (MOCCA).
Mayer spoke on behalf of the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts who are again working in partnership to organize the Canadian representation at the 2013 Venice Biennale. The only international visual arts exhibition to which Canada sends official national representation, the Biennale is among the most important contemporary exhibitions in the world and will showcase official entries from over 80 countries. The Canada Pavilion is situated in the heart of the historic exhibition grounds and has presented the work of some of Canada’s most accomplished artists on the world stage for over 60 years. (The Globe and Mail reports on the sorry state of the Pavilion and the lack of Canadian funding here.)
Boyle has become known in comics circles for her narrative drawings. Combining drawings with text, her early work explored themes of shame, sexuality, and body image in an autobiographical mode similar to the work of comics makers like Aline Kominsky, Megan Kelso, and Julie Doucet, but without those artists’ more traditional approach to word-balloon-heavy sequential storytelling. Her works on paper (she now works extensively in ceramics) fall somewhere between the Royal Art Lodge/Marcel Dzama schools and the comics and collective doodle art of Marc Bell. In 2004, Conundrum Press released Witness My Shame, a collection of Boyle’s self-published mini-books filled with captioned drawings depicting embarrassing life moments and romantic humiliations. Her work has also appeared in the U.S. avant garde comics anthology Kramers Ergot (issues 6 and 7), leading her to be sometimes associated with that aspect of contemporary comics making, although she recently noted that “the world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place.” Boyle remains the only artist associated with comics to represent a country at Venice, although some U.S. artists (Crumb, Chris Ware) have showed at the bigger American Biennials (Whitney, Sante Fe).
The selection committee for the Venice show included Gaëtane Verna, Director of The Power Plant, Toronto; Timothy Long, Head Curator of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax; Josée Drouin-Brisebois and Marc Mayer of the National Gallery of Canada.
Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Curator of Contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada, will be the curator for the Canadian project.
According to the National Gallery’s press release, Boyle is known for her “bold, fantastical explorations of imaginary narratives featuring a cast of marginal characters. By giving voice to these alienated figures she redeems their emotional states of pain, grief and anger with defiant grace. Employing a high level of hand-made craft and detail her multi-disciplinary practice mines the history of porcelain figurines, animist mythologies and arcane techniques to create a symbolic language uniquely her own.
Fueled by her concerns about class and gender injustice, Boyle transgresses traditional boundaries between human and animal, animate and inanimate, life and death, young and old, male and female. The artist embraces the realm between the tangible and intangible – the soul and what is timeless, essential. From sculpture to projection she translates her personal vision of sexuality, relationships and human vulnerability through a poetic and humane lens.”
Gallery director Marc Mayer sees her as “one of Canada’s most innovative mid-career artists”
Born in Scarborough, Ontario in 1972, Boyle graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1994 and has had solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe, most recently Fleshand Blood at UQAM, Montreal, Quebec which traveled to Art Gallery of Ontario and Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver (2011); Canadian Artist at the BMO Project Room, Toronto (2012); The Illuminations Project with Emily Duke at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (2011); Moon Hunter at Fumetto Festival, Lucerne, Switzerland (2009) and The History of Light at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge (2008). Boyle also participated in L’Espace des métamorphoses, Biennale internationale de Vallauris, France (2012); Le sort probable de l’homme qui avait avalé le fantôme in conjunction with Nouveau Festival, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2009); Noise Ghost (Shary Boyle and Shuvinai Ashoona), Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto (2009); My Winnipeg, La Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris (2011) which traveled to Musée International des Arts Modestes, Sete, France and Plug In ICA, Winnipeg (2012). Shary Boyle has performed at the Olympia Theatre, Paris (2005), The Sonar Festival, Barcelona (2005), The Hammer Museum, LA (2006, 2008), Brooklyn Academy of Music (2008), La Maison Rouge, Paris (2011) and presented a new theatre work Everything under The Moon with musical collaborator Christine Fellows at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto in February 2012. Shary Boyle was a finalist for the Sobey Award (2007, 2009), the recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (2009) and the Hnatyshyn Foundation Award in 2010.