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LJ

Painting in Partitions

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Roger Boyce, Room at {Suite}. Works featured are [left to right] Burden of Dreams and Trophy Case. Roger Boyce, Room at {Suite}. Works featured are [left to right] Coalface, Escape Hatch, and Accessory After the Fact Roger Boyce, Room at {Suite}. Works featured are [left to right] Honorary Chair and Gamesroom Roger Boyce, Gamesroom, 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 900 x 1200 mm Roger Boyce, Escape Hatch, 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 1200 x 1500 mm

In 'Burden of Dreams' we see a rendition of a painting on the wall, complete with Boyce's over-painting, and a sculpture on the floor. Next to it are a blue ball and chain, a physical restraining device attached to prisoners, and now used as everyday slang for someone who won't allow you to go anywhere or do anything without them. Is painting, or just art in general, a ball and chain for Boyce? Something to be obeyed, that can physically restrict and never mentally leave you?

Wellington

 

Roger Boyce
Room

 

5 September - 29 September, 2018

I always appreciate {Suite} gallery’s hot pink front door on Cuba St. It lures me in. It’s probably polarising, but at least it’s not dull. It has the ability to enhance the works seen through the windows sitting within the gallery, but also to clash… clash nauseously with their lurid colours.

Roger Boyce‘s series Room is a series of nine paintings, all of them 1200 x 1500 mm or 900 x 1200 mm. There are too many to fit into {Suite}’s main area and so two sit out the back in the lively stock room amongst other colours, media and shapes. This gives you the feeling that you are in a private house, with different artworks sitting side by side—and that it is necessary for you to explore. Seven sit in the main gallery and their colours and shapes bounce around.

Instead of showing the rooms that we might automatically deviate to—the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom—Boyce delivers us rooms, or areas of rooms, that have a special nuance. He gives us the games room (how many of us have those?), an escape hatch, and a trophy case. Boyce then paints rooms that are divided up; we see walls with paintings on them, and objects on giant scale overlapping and taking over. He paints their divisions, in portions and partitions. He presents viewers with rooms that might be out of their reach.

There is a small publication accompanying the exhibition, complete with colour plates and an essay by Julian McKinnon. McKinnon writes that “one gets the feeling that he [Boyce] loves painting”. This is hugely evident; each exhibited item nods to painting as a form, showing off Boyce’s skills, using a variety of different painting techniques. An easel and the palette sit as portions and act as partitions in Honorary Chair and Whirligig, while ladders make an appearance in Coalface and Escape Hatch, perhaps trying to get out of somewhere, attempting to transcend something. In Coalface we see a wall, on which there is a circular work: there are two pointers, not quite centred, that direct us to daubs of paint around the outside of the disc, mimicking a clock. Is Painting racing against time?

Trophy Case depicts three figures. The middle is a blue model (not unlike the ones you might buy from an art shop to practice your drawing of the human form—it bends and twists). On all fours, the blue figure has its head bowed, and holds two paint brushes up in the air. On either side are two bronze athletes, muscular and active: they are boxers, complete with gloves and shorts, ready to make the first punch. Sport here is ready to fight, it’s active and it will win. Painting is bent over, submissive, surrendering, holding the flags of painting over its head, no match for the two bronzed boxers.

In Burden of Dreams we see a rendition of a painting on the wall, complete with Boyce’s over-painting, and a sculpture on the floor. Next to it are a blue ball and chain, a physical restraining device attached to prisoners, and now used as everyday slang for someone who won’t allow you to go anywhere or do anything without them. Is painting, or just art in general, a ball and chain for Boyce? Something to be obeyed, that can physically restrict and never mentally leave you?

As a painting lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts, Boyce can’t help but question the activity and have views about its future. Yet he obviously doesn’t think painting is dead. In fact, one of Boyce’s students is represented by {Suite} too, and her painting is immaculate, showing real technical skill melded with conceptual thought and observation. By his pondering painting and its future he is making visible something he has thought but not said. He has former students littered around the country practising and exhibiting—a testimony of his legacy.

As with historical painting tropes the viewer should be prepared to unravel these works; for there are layers of meaning and interpretation available for the astute. Because the works are intense in colour and their depicted narratives, they would not be easy to live with. Nevertheless Boyce asks where painting has come from and where it is going.

By exhibiting Room within the room of the gallery as an institution it is as if he is asking ‘is this enough?’ or saying ‘take your pick’. And although they are only ‘rooms’, it is clear that the artist himself is completely central to the work, standing right there in the middle, asking us to consider his presence. Boyce mocks both the cliché and trope of the painter and the painting, while acknowledging they and him are very much a part of it all.

Lucy Jackson

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