Phoebe Boswell

14 Dec 2018 - 30 Mar 2019


Curated by Renée Mussai


Rivington Place



opening Times









11am - 6pm

11am - 6pm

11am - 9pm

11am - 6pm

12pm - 6pm


About the exhibition

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.

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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.

“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

About the artist

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.
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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.


Plinth UK
FAD Magazine


On The Line (2018): Phoebe Boswell spent three weeks in the gallery producing a new work commissioned by Autograph - a 25-meter-long extended self-portrait drawn directly onto the gallery walls in soft willow charcoal.

Based on photographs the artist took periodically of herself while creating the work, converging states of being are layered onto a horizon line running across the gallery walls, anchored by a portrait of Boswell as a young child.

Ythlaf (2018): Played simultaneously on six floor-mounted video screens. Here, Boswell evokes the remedial power of water to buoy her spirit, to heal and to suture, while considering how inconsequential the gravity of her personal narrative is when contextualised within the expansiveness of nature. Filmed by her father’s drone, the artist’s body is adrift at sea, at the shoreline between Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean.

Step on the pressure pads dotted throughout the gallery to hear The Space Between Things (2018), a looped soundscape of spoken word poetry written by Boswell during her intense period of recuperation. The artist’s soothing voice is summoned, evoking a vertiginous cacophony of individual and collective harmony and sonic dissonance. 

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She Summons An Army, 2018: Conceived at East London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital while Boswell contemplated the sudden loss of vision in her right eye, She Summons An Army introduces a monocular legion of drawn female figures whose heads are rendered as single eyeballs. In these 34 drawings, Boswell returns to important themes in her work: a continuous search for home, the nude female form as a vessel for embodied knowledge, and her ongoing salute to women who use their bodies in protest.

Drawing on memory, and how it splinters and dissipates in times of grief, miniscule reproductions of Boswell’s family photographs are dotted throughout the corridors of the building.

Upstairs in gallery 2, immerse yourself in a constellation of video works: A Broken Heart, Rupture, Rapture, and New Moon. Projected in an installation alongside wall-sized reproductions of Boswell’s drawings of the turbulent sea, these works rely on medical imaging techniques - capturing Boswell’s body in a space of cardiac and ocular trauma.

Also see a large new original drawing, Between Love and Loss Where We Might Glean Things.

A tightly cropped photograph of artist Faisal Abdu'Allah cutting the straight hair of a mostly obscured person. He looks intently at his subject, considering his next cut.


The Lighthouse: Sharing Circle With Phoebe Boswell

thurs 21 feb 2019, 7pm


Autograph is an accessible venue

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Chris Miller reviews The Space Between Things

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Please note that this exhibition contains sensitive content

Banner images: 1) Phoebe Boswell, film still from Rapture [detail], 2018. Single channel video. Courtesy the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York. 2) Phoebe Boswell, film still from Ythlaf, 2018. Single channel video with audio. Courtesy the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York. 3) Phoebe Boswell: The Space Between Things at Autograph, London. Photograph by Zoe Maxwell. 4) Phoebe Boswell, For Our Souls Soar There, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York. 5) Phoebe Boswell, Untitled 32 from the series She Summons an Army, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York.

Page images, from left: 1-2) Phoebe Boswell: The Space Between Things at Autograph, London. Photographs by Zoe Maxwell 3)Phoebe Boswell, film still from Ythlaf [detail], 2018. Single channel video with audio. Courtesy the artist and Sapar Contemporary, New York. 4) Omar Victor Diop: Liberty/Diaspora gallery installation at Autograph, London. Photograph by Zoe Maxwell. 5) Exhibition opening night, Photograph by Zoe Maxwell.