Boyce hit the headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that the removal of the JW Waterhouse painting Hylas and the Nymphs from the Manchester Art Gallery was part of Boyce’s upcoming retrospective. The (temporary) removal of the painting caused uproar in the press and on the post-its that the public were encouraged to leave on the wall space vacated by the painting.
The retrospective, which is on at the Gallery until 22 July 2018, covers Boyce’s work since the 1990’s. explores gender and race.
Boyce is a British Afro-Caribbean artist based in London, who addresses the everyday issues of race and gender through a variety of mediums. From pastel drawings, photographs and collages, to film, installations and sounds, Boyce captures the everyday struggles of being a black woman in a white supremacist society.
In her earlier works, Boyce depicted her personal experiences of childhood, friendships and family while incorporating vivid colors that signified her cultural roots. In 1983, she participated in the Five Black Women exhibition at the Africa Centre, in which she displayed large scale chalk and pastel drawings that integrated patterns associated with her Caribbean lineage. In the Audition (1997), Boyce displayed over 900 photographs that featured individuals invited to try on Afro wigs from the Corner house. Boyce’s artistic focus shifted away from depicting her ethnic experience, towards exploring the position of Afro-Caribbean culture in Britain’s mainstream.
Her later works consist of photographic depictions of the contemporary lifestyle of black women in Britain, along with how religion, politics and sexuality contribute to that experience. Boyce shifted her medium to film and sound, as seen her recent works such as Exquisite Cacophony (2015), which documents an unrehearsed interplay between a vocal artist and an indie rapper. Her Crop Over (2007), explore the relationship between the Transatlantic slave trade and the Harewood House history.
Also working as a Professor of Black Art and Design at the University of the Arts London, Boyce is also leading a 3-year research project focusing on the contribution of Asian and African artists towards British art and 20th century art as a whole.
The Manchester Art Gallery solo exhibition continues until 22nd July 2018, featuring works from the mid 1990s to the present – reflecting Boyce’s transformation as not only an artist, but also as a black British woman throughout the years. As commissioned by the Manchester Art Gallery, Boyce is collaborating with Lasana Shabazz and drag artists of Family Gorgeous for new film installation that explores ‘gender trouble’ within the 19th century paintings, and will be premiered in the exhibition.