Julia Boyd – What’s Not There

Julia Boyd 'Emily' 2012
Julia Boyd ‘Emily’ 2012

It seems an age ago now that I first came across the work of Julia Boyd – while I was trespassing in the halls of the photomedia department at the ANU School of Art – and included her work in my first ever curatorial undertaking Borderlife. In those four years Boyd has been everywhere, and seemingly hasn’t skipped a beat as far as her practice is concerned. Resettled in Canberra after travelling, this month she presented not only her first solo exhibition Fluidity, but released a crowdfunded artist book Fluidity and Photography.

Fluidity, at CCAS Manuka from 28 March to 7 April, showed three distinct aspects of Boyd’s current practice, with none considered your regular garden variety photography. Upon entry to the exhibition the audience was gently introduced to this notion by a series of sophisticated liquid emulsion prints. These works are beautiful, but quiet, and although the subjects are people and places of significance to the artist these timeless pieces could be placed at the hand of many esteemed photographers over the past decades.

Following on was a selection of ink-jet prints on found objects and surfaces, including a full height door and a tabletop. It was works like these that first grabbed my attention in 2009 – totally unexpected, unlike anything I’d seen previously and therefore damn exciting. Now Boyd has taken it further: applying this same technique to printing onto books – old, found books that is, beautiful hardcover objects – their emblazoned titles now thrown askance by way of a striking new visage and complete new purpose of being.

Julia Boyd 'Structure' 2012
Julia Boyd ‘Structure’ 2012

The many remaining works in the exhibition are for me the best Boyd has made to date, although I will remind the reader that I am a painter by training, and a hobbyist behind the camera (and no good at either). Drawing from a huge archive of photographic material, much of it taken during her time overseas, Boyd has taken paint to photograph and erased almost everything. In a uniform concrete grey gouache entire sections of images are decisively obscured, cutting in and saving only the main figure of our focus. Boyd typically favours brutal and banal architecture, sombre landscapes or city scenes and the dreariness of day to day life, and through the addition of sympathetic greywash these subjects emerge more stark than ever. The scene is sharpened, our eyes move along all the right lines. With superfluous surroundings removed we can finally get to the heart of these works, to see what Boyd saw all along. With Fludity Boyd demonstrates with masterful ease and simplicity the age old advice that what you don’t say is as important as what you do. What’s not there goes a long way to illuminating what is.

For an excellent overview of Julia Boyd’s work and news of upcoming projects I recommend stopping by her website.

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