Artist Shary Boyle gets 3-city show

Toronto's Shary Boyle, who challenges preconceptions of beauty in her sculptures, paintings and art installations, will have major exhibits of her work in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Toronto's Shary Boyle, who challenges preconceptions of beauty in her sculptures, paintings and art installations, will have major exhibits of her work in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The show is a recognition of her 2009 win of the Iskowitz Prize, which goes to an artist who has made a significant contribution to Canadian art.

But it also takes advantage of the interest curators have taken in Boyle across the country, says Michelle Jacques at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which intends to devote four rooms to her work.

As Jacques planned the Iskowitz-related show, she discovered influential curator Louise Déry, of the Université du Québec at Montréal gallery, had already begun work on a solo show for the multidisciplinary artist. Déry is the lead curator on Boyle's touring show, which concentrates on her newest work.

Shary Boyle: Flesh and Blood, which opens at the AGO this September, will go on to UQAM in Montreal and the Contemporary Art Gallery in  Vancouver.

"She is someone with an incredible work ethic and, through the breadth of her work and her commitment to her work, managed to establish a pretty international career for a Canadian artist of her age," Jacques says of Boyle.

Known for animated projections

Many music lovers know Boyle's animated projections, which have accompanied concerts by artists such as Feist, Peaches, Doug Paisley and Christine Fellows.

The AGO plans room-sized installations that "play with light the way she does in those musical performances," Jacques said.

Her Virus (White Wedding) has moving life-sized figures on a timer sequence, combined with plaster, lace, acetate and coloured ink to create a light installation of the kind that has cemented her reputation as the woman who resurrected the overhead projector.

The exhibit includes more of her Highland Series, featuring women in Highland dress in surreal situations. The Highland women of her paintings and the mythical figures of her sculptures are among Boyle's recurring themes.

Boyle is also known for her intricate porcelain figurines, delicately rendered as anything from the Royal Doulton factory, but with more unusual subject matter.  

"There is an element of I'm not sure if I would use the word gruesome — it's sort of more macabre maybe. She herself would admit that she really likes to play that line between the beautiful and the slightly … grotesque," Jacques said.

"Even in Shary's earliest work, I think she was using kind of hybrid creatures or creating figures that had slight deformities to make a commentary on our expectations of beauty."

Other Canadian artists, including David Altmejd, who went to the Venice Biennale in 2007, are similarly surreal, but with a different style. Boyle was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award in 2009, the same year Altmejd won.

'Remains quite personal'

Boyle has struck her own path since graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1994, Jacques said.

"I think it always remains quite personal because she really is working a very personal roster of imagery that springs straight from her imagination and her work will always have that element," she said.

All the work in the exhibit has been produced since 2006. Boyle wanted to introduce work that hadn't been shown before at Toronto's Power Plant or other Canadian galleries.

Two porcelain works — To Colonize the Moon and The Rejection of Pluto — were commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario and are exhibited in its permanent collection.

The AGO show, to take space in the European galleries, runs Sept. 15 to Dec. 5. The exhibit runs Jan. 6 to Feb. 12 at Galerie de l'UQAM in Montreal, and June 17 to Aug. 21, 2011, at the Contemporary Art Gallery in  Vancouver.