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  • Writer's pictureLaliana

Shary Boyle

Shary Boyle is another artist I discovered at the Venice Biennal, she presents her work for the Canadian Pavilion. What Impressed me about this artist is the variety of media she uses in her work employing drawing, painting, porcelain and clay sculpture, installation and performance; she uses different media to explore themes of the body and its boundaries, in relation to gender, nature and social belonging, and frequently drawing on myth and folklore.

A material that she often prefers is the ceramic of which she exploits both delicacy of texture and the purity of the white color. The installation Boyle present is called The Cave Painter and is composed by different works, mainly sculptures which are shown in a dark space.

The largest single element of Shary Boyle's installation is Music For Silence. The piece, which is an 8-foot long plaster sculpture of a mermaid in repose in a cave as white as alabaster, which is alternately pure white, and overlayed with projected images.

The white sculpture is  intermittently illuminated by overhead projectors with what Boyle calls a cacophony of imagery. The projected photo collage includes various animals’ eyes and other body parts, cave paintings, lightning bolts, a nuclear explosion and individuals ranging from Helen Keller to Charlie Chaplin.


At the centre of her installation is a sea deity, her wizened face is ancient, yet she conjures the Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid, who traded her beautiful voice to attain mortality.

'It’s also about the precipice of the known and the unknown world, very much dealing with the idea of morbidity. She’s in this underground place that is maybe the final place that you’d go before you would enter the underworld. She’s a guardian of the next world' Boyle

The projections refer to characters who have been inspirations for Boyle and who embody the spirit of defiance or battling against silence. There is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who fights for girls’ education, silent film star Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller, folk singer Judee Sill and various artists Boyle admires, all in a collage of universal images.

'I did not want to make work that was sophisticated contemporary art. I wanted to address locals — people who stumble in who know nothing about art — it should be a meaningful experience for any person.' Boyle


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