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AP1: The Boyle Family

As my work is taking a shift into a more sculptural practice I wanted to look at contemporary artists also using sculpture as a media to explore site and architecture. With my research into archiving it is interesting to see the relationship between object and location, such as the physical location where the objects are taken from and whether this site can be an artwork in itself.

The Boyle family have a very unique body of work that literally forms an archive of specific places, specifically an area of ground - perfectly replicating the environment. It becomes almost like a time capsule - encasing a encountered moment in time for this location.

The Boyle family is described as making art “that represents the world with the minimum of artistic intervention. They do not want to exclude anything. They do not choose their subject matter, they do not have a style. Their work is neither ironic nor metaphorical, and it offers no social comment or allegory [...] “as far as I am sure, there is nothing of me in there” (Elliott, Hare and Wilson, 2003). It is interesting to read about how the artists attempt to remove the ego and identity from the work. The work is purely about encountered textures and spaces. It is as though the subject matter chooses them, it is something encountered. This process of being inspired by everyday encountered environments - such as rubble, trash and discarded flagstones - is something I would be interested in exploring. I feel that my own working process functions in a similar way, where I am building my own collection of gathered objects and images from the urban landscape which is directly influencing my work.

Boyle Family, Study from the Japan Series with broken blue and white linoleum and debris, mixed media, resin and fiberglass.

With the pieces being installed as wall hanging they are read like paintings, although sculptural it appears more like a plaque - similar presentation of artefacts in museums.

The artists “began to select specific portions of junk from the demolition sites, and recreated them exactly as they had found them” – idea of recreating found objects, setting something within time – preserving – archiving? – parallel with land art – presenting things that are familiar to us. The everyday turned into art. The works are “like fragments in a mosaic” building a constant reference to architectural devices and formats. These segments appear like they are part of buildings or landscapes.

Within my own work I have become obsessed with the concept of fragments and the different forms they can exists in. In a similar way the Boyle family reproduce fragments of landscapes, both in the way it remains as a rectangular study of a larger area as well as the physically broken and fragmentary details within. Casting from life is a very historically loaded approach – they combine a number of approaches for reproducing surfaces – casting – painting and assembling objects. The use of materials creates an incredibly photoreal presentation - the work looks organic whilst being created synthetically. There is an element of visual trickery - 'trompe l'oeil' causing the viewer to question the physicality of the piece, the materials and what is real and what has been fabricated.

The Boyle Family, Kerb Study with Filled in Basement Lights and Cobbles, Westminster Series, mixed media, resin, fiberglass, C 66 x 66 inches, 1987

Another process that the Boyle family utilised was asking visitors to throw darts at a map of the world – they then created pieces from the specific locations that the darts landed and have been continuing this for over 30 years. This adds a participatory element to their approach - becomes quite conceptual and further confirms their process where they do not choose subject matter but it has been chosen through participation - this possibly reduces bias in the areas they choose - becomes more speculative and playful.

The works are very monumental, have a very 3D and physical presence when hung on the gallery wall - often described as a collaged relief or a tableau - meaning 'a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene from a story or from history'. In a way these artworks act as models of contemporary settings that recreate a story. There is an element of narrative through the physical act of travelling to these locations and recreating and preserving them, although this is not immediately apparent until context is provided. The context is provided through the naming which in itself is a very direct archival marking - citing the location with simply structured titles such as 'kerb study' which makes the process seem more scientific.

The work explores the simple process of looking - exploring new ways of seeing and experiencing landscapes. It is like a reimagining of a still life exploring the normal everyday human activity. Their work could be considered 'low art' as it deals with the ordinary cast away - seen as worthless subject matter which challenges viewers perception of the value in art and allows them to connect with the physical visual world.

The Boyle family describe the role of archaeologists in connection with their work in the way that the evidence the past as they find it with everything having significance. It is interesting to connect their work with archaeology as they are working in a similar way of recreating pure reality and cataloguing locations of interest. However, with the process of reproductions it challenges the idea of the original - does an original exist? When the work is hung in a gallery setting the pieces are separated from their original location.

Encapsulated found objects in resin

  • It is interesting to research the Boyle family in connection to my own sculptural work - specifically my resin piece. In a similar way I have catalogued a specific locations - preserving it in time.

  • It could look like a frozen puddle containing objects inside - the stone is fragmented - could have been part of a construction - a piece of architecture

  • The resin is also a form of replica - the casting process is replicating the original - allows viewers to question where the original came from

  • Interest in found objects - Duchampian process of the readymade - creating artwork out of pre-existing objects.


Elliott, P., Hare, B. and Wilson, A., 2003. Boyle Family. 1st ed. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland.


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