Think Less, Feel More

Publication: The Times.  
July 2017

The painter Alice Boyle has developed a style and artistic language that she has made entirely her own.  Like many painters, her work has evolved, moving slowly but inexorably from recognisable scenes and images to become almost wholly abstract.  A few years ago she was painting work with titles such as ‘The Crying Goose’, ‘Bird on a Branch’ and ‘Triangles and Boats’ where the images and description matched.

But there has always been something else in Boyle’s work that transcended the mere representation and depiction of things. It might be called ‘energy’ or ‘force’ or ‘vitality’. Whatever it is, it was present in her earliest paintings and now is more passionate than ever.

Boyle originally trained as an interior architect but there is little evidence of this here, except perhaps in the way she organises shapes and colour on a flat plane, as well as her use of layers of plaster and gesso, which she textures with tiling combs and scrapers.

These vivacious, astute paintings contain levels of complexity inherited from the masters she clearly admires, such as Kandinsky, Klee and Míro, but they are anything but derivative. Stark linear patterning, etched boldly on the surface of ‘Resist Resisting’ might represent the thinking that the show’s title urges us to do less of, while the freer, more colourful, exuberant whorls, splashes and scoops are aligned with emotion, so often deficient in much of contemporary art.

In conversation, Boyle is explicit about her inspiration and working habits, which she describes as a ‘process’ that involves surfacing her boards with several plaster layers before working in imagery that she often sources online. Such motifs, whether aboriginal art, Palaeolithic cave painting or Twentieth Century abstraction, are never copied but adapted and developed. Ultimately, a work generates its own energy, and prepares the ground for another. Creativity begets creativity, with ideas and imagery sparking off in different directions like a nuclear chain reaction.

The importance of these works is not what they are ‘about’ but how and why they make us feel. They are derived ultimately from an interplay between the artist’s conscious and sub-conscious, combining feeling and rationality, in a way that makes such dualism seem irrelevant. As the artist herself quite rightly asks, ‘can our feelings ever be separated from our thoughts?’.

Although there is often turmoil and tumult here, the prevailing mood is one of fecund joy. Boyle is a dedicated artist whose work will be enjoyed – and taken seriously.