The Venice Questionnaire #8: Shary Boyle

By ArtReview

Shary Boyle, Burden I, 2009 porcelain, china paint, luster, 30 x 36 x 36 cm. Courtesy the artist and Jessica Bradley Inc., Toronto Shary Boyle White Light, 2010, foam, textile, string, porcelain, hair, black light, 305 x 305 x 183 cm. Courtesy the artist and Jessica Bradley Inc., Toronto

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published over the coming days. Shary Boyle is representing Canada. The pavilion is in the Giardini.

What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?

For Venice I have challenged myself to transform a very bright day-time building into night, without blocking or veiling any of its essential character. I have done this with textiles, bronze, plaster and porcelain, and with the assistance of various antiquated technologies. The Canada pavilion will become a sanctuary where inner and outer space co-exist.

Are you approaching the show in a different way to how you would with a ‘normal’ exhibition?

It’s impossible not to respond to site and circumstance when planning for Venice… such a large number of culturally diverse people coming through the grounds, in one of the most mythologically, architecturally, geographically fantastical cities in Europe. My work is often sourced from within – for this project especially self is in service of place and the public.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or problematic?

There can be no such thing as representing a country. One can’t and shouldn’t try even attempt it. Canada, like all regions in the world, is much too complex a culture for any one person to front. The government of Canada doesn’t represent me – nor does it's borders. I will represent myself and consider many others while doing it.

What audience are you addressing with the work? The masses of artist peers, gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening or the general public who come through over the following months?

My project very carefully attempts to make the distinctions between social, educational and cultural classes irrelevant – focusing on universal experiences shared by all. I feel strongly that art is a powerful tool for such a job.

What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?

My first impression was the astonishing range of works on view. When you include this many artists it becomes too large to control in any singular approach. The festival reinvigorates my faith in the potential for contemporary art and curating to be truly diverse.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

The other artists working intensely, their collective teams labouring with material and content that is well thought-out and believed in. The elegance of costume practiced by elderly Venetians.