British Turner Prize–winning artist Martin Boyce is presenting Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea. In the exhibition, Boyce uses sculpture and architectural forms to explore themes of melancholy and abandonment.
Many of the works use an angular, oblique design language derived from work by French sculptors Joël and Jan Martel—longtime inspirations for Boyce, who lives in Glasgow. Audiences can witness this in the first part of the exhibition, There was a Door, which, unsurprisingly, is a door, but one that doesn’t open to the exhibition, or in fact anything.
There was a door, however, is a precedent for the rest of Boyce’s work on display. Details down to the wall-mounted door’s bronze keyhole and peephole reflect the intimacy of the inanimate objects on display. “I enjoy the stillness and melancholia of an object such as a lamp or table of which can appear lonely or abandoned,” said Boyce speaking to The Architect’s Newspaper.
On the ground floor, furniture can be found along with four apparently “sleeping” chimneys (officially titled, Still Life Landscape with Sun). The furniture is mostly metal, with Boyce weathering some to give a false sense of history; the works appear as if they sat outside for some time. To do this, Boyce said he brushed the metal with Scotch-Brite, vinegar, and filings. The furniture then sits adjacent to white, wall-fixed moldings, creating a contradiction with what we would usually expect to find inside and outside.
Likewise, the same could be said for the array of chimneys that create a roofscape within the all-white-walled gallery ground floor. Made from jesmonite, the chimneys have been stained with acid to give the impression of being exposed to the rain. Their oblique sculpting is a scaled-up reference to the smaller motifs that feature throughout. To complete the roofscape scene, the chimneys have television aerials attached to them and, in the background, a paper lantern acts as the sun behind the chimney-tops.
However, this isn’t the only star of the show. Another light, or rather a Dead Star, can be found in the form of a circular lamp hanging over a table. This lamp, though, emits no light. Like the supposed electrical fittings, the lamp was made from cast bronze and hence will never be able to shine. “Because of this, it really becomes about shape and structure, it is a purely sculptural, combatant, and broken lamp,” remarked Boyce. Other light fittings throughout Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars are also made from bronze and their absence of illuminance amplifies their lonely presence.
On the floor above is another contradiction: a fireplace. Unsurprisingly there is no fire and the fireplace, located above the chimneys, dons oblique motifs present throughout. Inside the fireplace, a miniature yellow hanging lantern and set of stairs can be seen. The stairs lead nowhere and the lantern—a reference to another functioning one on the same level—emits no light. “It acts as a device that plays with perspective in the room, becoming an an architectural space within a theater,” said Boyce. “With a lot of the works, it’s more about being with the 1:1 objects and then within that chimney, it’s stage-like.”
Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. is on view now and runs through June 16 a the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (521 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011).