Adelaide, South Australia, Australia born 1942
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on two canvases
Dream-like, filmic possibilities inform Robert Boynes’s paintings of urban environments. Since 1995, he has moved from depicting large overviews of cities to more close-up viewpoints incorporating figures in motion. His spaces are those of transit – crossings, walkways, escalators, stairways, subway stations – spaces that no individual owns, that everybody has a right to use. The works suggest open-ended scenarios of people coming and going, perhaps to or from a rendezvous. It is the implication of life beyond a particular ‘frame’ that is significant to Boynes:
It is like [Jean-Luc] Goddard’s idea that what is important is what comes before and after the movie. It is the implication that this is just a slice of a continuing action ... I think this is one of the reasons I allow myself to work with moving figures … to create this implication that something has come before and something will happen after. The scene is a particular chink of the action that you look through – a privileged moment in a continuum.1
Rendez-vous is one of a number of works that Boynes undertook during a residency at Artspace in Sydney’s bustling Woolloomooloo. To begin with, he photographed people in the city environment. He was not interested in the identity of individuals but rather in the idea of archetypal urban dwellers. After taking hundreds of photographs, which Boynes regards as sketchbook notations, he rigorously selected, edited and transformed the image – initially by scanning it into the computer, then relaying it onto a large silkscreen which he in turn manipulated in the painting process on canvas.
It is in the act of painting, of washing back and overlaying successive glazes, that Boynes attains a fugitive, mysterious aura and luminosity in his work. It is in paintings like Rendez-vous, of figures moving through urban spaces set alongside calligraphic neon signs, that he conveys his fragmentary ‘fictional documentaries’ of contemporary life to illuminate imagination.
Robert Boynes (2002) and Deborah Hart
1Robert Boynes interview with Deborah Hart, 5 February 2002.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002