Abbot Hall Art Gallery has long been associated with the British landscape tradition, with a vast collection of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Lake District watercolours, modern and contemporary landscapes and an exhibition programme that has included recent landscape-themed shows focussing on artists such as Graham Sutherland, Barbara Hepworth and JMW Turner. Into this impressive lineage fits Boyle Family: Contemporary Archaeology, an exhibition that will present visitors to Abbot Hall with a vision of the landscape that is both completely familiar and utterly unexpected.
Boyle Family have beguiled viewers with their contemporary explorations of the world around us ever since Mark Boyle and Joan Hills, and later their children, Sebastian and Georgia, started collaborating in the 1960s, seeking to present their interpretation of the environment as truthfully and objectively as possible.
They are best known for their astonishing earth studies: facsimiles of the ground taken from randomly chosen points in the world that resemble slices of the landscape fixed to the gallery walls. They have likened their approach to that of NASA space research, voyaging to far-flung places to probe, obtain data and extract samples from the surface of the planet; a form of contemporary archaeology that excavates the present rather than the past. This ‘earthprobe’ project was launched as Journey to the Surface of the Earth at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1969 and has led to numerous World Series assignments all across the globe - from New Zealand to Japan or the Australian outback to north of the Arctic circle - with the sites having been determined by blindfolded participants throwing darts at a large map of the world.
This exhibition, conceived in close collaboration with the artists, could be seen as a follow-up to their comprehensive retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2003 and will present The World Series Lazio Site, the most recent of their on-going World Series projects, in its entirety. The Lazio series dates from 2013 and comprises 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 and a mesmerising time-lapse film of their most recent Seeds for a Random Garden project.
‘There is absolutely no doubt that this exhibition will look stunning in Abbot Hall’s exhibition spaces. What is truly remarkable about Boyle Family’s work is how accessible it is – it’s conceptual art, in that it’s built on a strong framework of ideas, but conceptualism that possesses an immediate visual magnetism: mysterious, beautiful, endlessly changing. Once you’ve seen their work in the flesh you’ll never look at the infinite variations of the tarmac, soil, concrete, rock or sand that we walk on in quite the same way ever again.’
Nick Rogers, Curator, Lakeland Arts
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Tel 01539 722464
Fax 01539 722494