A life-altering series of events serve as the genesis for Kenyan-British artist Phoebe Boswell’s new work: an emotive interrogation of trauma, healing, and the poetics of endurance.
Boswell’s multidisciplinary art practice is anchored to a restless state of diasporic consciousness. She creates layered, deeply immersive installations to centre and amplify histories which - like her own - are often systemically marginalised.
In The Space Between Things, Boswell reflects on the rupture of her physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Using her art-making to explore a landscape of grief, she invites us to bear witness to a journey of recovery and possible renewal.
““Take me to the lighthouse / There is peace there / In the space between things / Take me to the lighthouse / There is peace there in the space between things / Take me to the lighthouse / I can rage there / In the space between things””
— Phoebe Boswell
Visceral and candid, Boswell’s layered imagery moves from an East London operating theatre, where she undergoes surgery to save her right eye, to an angiogram of her broken heart, to an imagined monocular army that she summons for strength, to the blurred depiction of her blinded sight.
We find her submerged in the contested space between land and sea at her family home on the shores of Zanzibar, where she retreated to recuperate. The artist’s own figure features prominently. In the lead-up to the exhibition, Boswell will draw a twenty-meter long extended portrait of the self onto the gallery walls in soft willow charcoal.
This is an act of both defiance – ‘I am here, I am present, I exist, I won’t be silent’ - and acceptance – ‘I'm fragile, I'm vulnerable, our bodies are fallible and unexpected’. Transcending beyond a meditation on the self, the fractured nature of being and diasporic consciousness as a strategy of resistance emerge as recurrent themes. Boswell explores how one might articulate a shared language to express grief: creating a set of intimate visual vocabularies which are vulnerable and empowering, personal and collective, cathartic and affirmative.
Born in Nairobi to a Kikuyu mother and British Kenyan father, and raised in the Arabian Gulf, Phoebe Boswell (b. 1982) is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and works in London.
Boswell studied at the Slade School of Art and Central St Martins. She is currently a Somerset House artist-in-residence, a Ford Foundation Fellow, and is represented in the United States by Sapar Contemporary, New York.
Her work has been widely exhibited: with galleries Sapar Gallery, Carroll / Fletcher, and Tiwani Contemporary; art fairs including Art15, 1:54, and Expo Chicago; and has screened at Sundance, the London Film Festival, LA Film Festival, Blackstar, Underwire, British Animation Awards, and CinemAfrica amongst others.
She participated in the Gothenburg International Biennial of Contemporary Art 2015 and was commissioned to make new work for the Biennial of Moving Images 2016 at the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva.
Boswell was the first recipient of the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship, was awarded the Special Prize at the Future Generation Art Prize for her interactive installation Mutumia, which consequently showed as part of the 57th Venice Biennale, and has recently been awarded the Bridget Riley Drawing Fellowship at the British School of Rome. An international solo show of her work will open in February 2019 at the Goteborg Konsthalle, Sweden.
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