Mark Boyle  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Mark Boyle (May 11, 1934 - May 4, 2005) was an artist born in Glasgow and known for his work in the cultural UK Underground of the 1960s around the Traverse Theatre, and exhibiting since 1985 with Joan Hills and their children Sebastian and Georgia as the Boyle Family.

The World Series works meticulously re-created randomly chosen areas and were exhibited widely across the world, including the British Pavilion at the XXXIX Venice Biennale in 1979. The Hayward Gallery showed Beyond Image: Boyle Family in 1986. The National Gallery of Scotland held a major retrospective Boyle Family in 2003.

While he was a prolific artist he may be best known for his work as a pioneer of light shows in music, producing light environments for Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix during the 1960s.

Amongst others he collaborated with George Brecht, Peter Schmidt, Cornelius Cardew, and John Tilbury.

It appears he was also a teacher at English Art Schools.

Boyle Family are a family of collaborative artists based in London. They are Mark Boyle & Joan Hills & their children Sebastian & Georgia. Both Scottish, Mark & Joan met in Harrogate, Yorkshire in 1957. Joan had studied art & architecture & was bringing up her first son Cameron whilst running her own business. Mark was in the army, writing poetry. After a period of working separately they began working together, agreeing that art should not exclude anything as a potential subject.

Wherever Mark & Joan lived was the studio, so it always seemed natural & necessary that friends & family should be co opted in to help whenever there was a big show going off or an event to put on. Over the years they have worked with many artists, performers, musicians, filmmakers & dancers including Jimi Hendrix & the psychedelic jazz-rock pioneers Soft Machine.

From very early on Sebastian & Georgia went around the studio, doing bits here & there & gradually getting more & more involved: going on working trips, expeditions & helping to finalise & hang exhibitions. Originally the work went under Mark's name largely because Mark & Joan felt too broke & too weak to fight the stereotype. Labels never mattered to them. It was the work that was important, not the labels or the marketing or the image. If the artworld wanted to believe in obsessed, lone male artists starving in their studios, well so be it. They & their friends knew the score, Mark Boyle works were Mark & Joan works. Gradually this became accepted & they exhibited as Mark Boyle & Joan Hills. Since 1985 the four of them have exhibited as Boyle Family.

Their aim continues to be to try & make art that does not exclude anything as a potential subject.Over the years, some of the subjects being: earth, air, fire and water; animals, vegetables and minerals; insects, reptiles and water creatures; human beings and societies. The media they have worked in have included: performances and events, films and projections, sound recordings, photography, electron-microphotography, drawing, assemblage, painting, sculpture and installation.

Their best known work, however, continues to be their Journey to the Surface of the Earth. Begun in 1964, this work encompasses many different series & projects including: the London Series, Tidal Series, Thaw Series, Japan Series & their lifelong project, the World Series. Each of these series has involved various random selection techniques to isolate a rectangle of the Earth's surface. In the case of the World Series 1000 random selections were made from a giant map of the world by blindfolded visitors to the exhibition at London's ICA in 1969.

The random selection serves several purposes: nothing is excluded as a potential subject; the particular is chosen as a representative of the whole & it reduces their subjective role as artists & creators to that of "presenters". To present a slice of reality as objectively & truthfully as possible. They call this "motiveless appraisal".

Once the random selection has been made, they recreate the site in a fixed and permanent form as a painted fibreglass relief. They recognise that each work is, in a sense, a failure. They know the selections can never be truly random and that it is impossible to eliminate themselves and their own subjective influences.

They attempt to present a slice of reality as they found it at the moment of selection. And yet, so much is left out. The world is not a fixed and permanent place. There are an infinite number of elements and factors that are constantly changing. No matter how good the recreation, it is still a recreation and only an approximation to reality. They know that it is impossible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But they try to isolate and reduce the elements to see if it is possible to tell the truth about anything.

They are "trying to remove the prejudices that the conditioning of our upbringing and culture impose. Trying to make the best visual description our senses and minds can achieve of a random sample of the reality that surrounds us. Boyle Family are not social or anti-social, radical or anti-radical, political or apolitical. We feel ourselves to be remote from all these considerations. We want to see if its possible for an individual to free himself from his conditioning and prejudice. To see if its possible for us to look at the world or a small part of it, without being reminded consciously or unconsciously of myths and legends, art out of the past or present, art and myths of other cultures. We also want to be able to look at anything without discovering in it our mothers' womb, our lovers' thighs, the possibility of handsome profit or even the makings of an effective work of art. We don't want to find in it memories of places where we suffered joy and anguish or tenderness or laughter. We want to see without motive and without reminiscence this cliff, this street, this field, this rock, this earth."(1)

Boyle Family have exhibited in galleries and museums world-wide including representing Britain at the Venice Bienal in 1978 and the Sao Pauolo Bienale in 1987. Their exhibit at London's Hayward Gallery in 1986 attracted 176,000 visitors. Their work is represented in many private and public collections with major works in forty museum collections worldwide.

The Boyle Family website is designed to be both an introduction to their work and to provide access to archive material, including: books & catalogue essays; works; documentation including the world map & installation shots; a chronology & bibliography.

Boyle Family would like to thank everyone who has helped with this site, especially: Hans Locher at the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague; Andrew Bogle in New Zealand; Hansjorg Mayer; Chris Townsend; Julia Jacques for her design work & all the various photographers whose pictures of Boyle family & their works have been invaluable.

(1) Quote from Boyle Family Beyond Image Catalogue

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mark Boyle" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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