Ever since Waldemar Januszczak singled her out for special praise in a couple of his mid-80s exhibition reviews in the Guardian, Sonia Boyce has been on a roll. Her work has been exhibited here, there and everywhere and whenever black artists in Britain are discussed and referenced Boyce’s name is invariably mentioned and with good reason. Her oil pastel drawings of the 80s marked her out as being an artist of exceptional ability and sensitivity.
One of the best and most widely reproduced examples of these pastel drawings is Some English Rose. The New York Times of October 24, 1997 carried a review of the mega exhibition of black artists’ work, ‘Transforming the Crown’ (see AM214) accompanied by the inevitable reproduction of Some English Rose – the biggest I have ever seen in my life. It took Renoir the best part of 70 years after his death for his most famous paintings to find their way onto the lids of biscuit tins and the front of ‘get well soon’ cards. On current form, it may take Boyce’s Some English Rose considerably less time.
Although Boyce has the enviable distinction of being the only black British artist ever to have a one-person exhibition at the Whitechapel (in 1988) and although her work is in all the right collections and her name is mentioned in all the right circles, full-bodied exhibition opportunities that allow us to take a considered look at a substantial body of her work have nevertheless been something of a rarity. The last such exhibition I saw was at the Air Gallery and that was donkey’s years ago – in 1987.
inIVA to the rescue! In fact, inIVA to the rescue again. We ought really to be forgiven for believing that inIVA was created to service Boyce and her male equivalent, Keith Piper. It doesn’t seem like five minutes since Boyce, with the involvement of inIVA, had a solo show in Brighton, at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (1995). The work produced for that particular exhibition was apparently the result of a one-day-a-week, ten-week residency…
The above extracts are from an exhibition review by Eddie Chambers, "Sonia Boyce”, Art Monthly, London, Number 215, April 1998: 26-28
This review solicited a hostile response that appeared in the letters page of Art Monthly, Number 216