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PHI Fondation Boyce Web
Sonia Boyce, Sofia wallpaper, 2022. Printed wallpaper. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist, APALAZZOGALLERY, and Hauser & Wirth

Sonia Boyce: FEELING HER WAY

  • Exhibition
  • Free
  • Contemporary Art
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PHI Foundation 465 Saint-Jean Street
Montréal, Québec H2Y 2R6

We also invite you to visit the exhibition Rajni Perera and Marigold Santos: Efflorescence/The Way We Wake, presented in our second building, 451 Saint-Jean Street.

May 3, 2023—September 8, 2024
Wednesday to Friday: 12 PM—7 PM
Saturday and Sunday: 11 AM—6 PM

Opening Reception
Thursday, May 2, 2024
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM

Free admission
Reservations are not required

Curator

The PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art is pleased to present the North American premiere of FEELING HER WAY by Sonia Boyce DBE RA.

FEELING HER WAY (2022) is an immersive installation consisting of bespoke wallpaper, posters, photography, sculpture, video, and sound, which was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2022.

Taking over the PHI Foundation’s gallery spaces, located at 465 Saint-Jean Street in Old Montréal, this monumental work invites us into a sumptuous visual and sonic polyphony that centres around the vocal performances and improvisation of four acclaimed Black female singers: Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth MBE, Sofia Jernberg, and Tanita Tikaram. These four women, who normally work as soloists, were brought together, and met for the first time to do something they had never done before; take part in a session of improvised vocalizations led by vocal composer Errollyn Wallen CBE. For singers who have spent years honing their personal sound and working within the comfort zones of a score or song, improvisation can be incredibly intimidating, as it compels a singer to let go of inhibitions and, above all, “perfection.” What Sonia Boyce set up for the singers, and subsequently shares with us in this work, are the conditions of possibility for experimentation and play, the opportunity to use their voices as never before, and to experience the joy and anxiety of letting go, together.

Single and multi-channel videos, photo portraits, and posters punctuate our visitor journey through an environment adorned in exuberantly coloured geometric-patterned wallpaper, one created for each woman. Another key component encountered throughout, are dazzling sculptural elements made to resemble pyrite, a crystalline mineral also referred to as “fool’s gold.” One entire room is inspired by Sonia’s collaborative project Devotional Collection (1999-ongoing), which consists of an ever-growing archive that pays homage to Black British female musicians and singers, as well as the fans, to whom their work means so much. In this space is a custom gold wallpaper design, and a display of sculptures that consist of items in their original packaging combined with crystalline “fool’s gold” forms. Our faces are mirrored in the reflective surfaces of the sculptures and wallpaper and bring us into the work as members of the listening public.

Trust, agency, and generosity are at the heart of FEELING HER WAY, demonstrating what can happen when these crucial values are established between the artist and her collaborators. The work becomes a giant, multi-sensorial instrument of connection, kinship, and freedom, while also allowing each woman’s unique identity to breathe and resonate. Through a willingness to take risks, what might we learn about ourselves? Might we find our own voices? Could we contribute that voice to a larger chorus? In doing so, might we find freedom?

Initiated and organized by the PHI Foundation, this is Sonia Boyce’s first major exhibition in North America, and kicks off a tour of the work to venues across Canada. Following its presentation in Montréal, the exhibition will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the Toronto Biennial of Art in September 2024, and to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in June 2025.

FEELING HER WAY by Sonia Boyce DBE RA was commissioned by the British Council for the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, 2022.

The PHI Foundation gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and the SDC Vieux-Montréal for their support.

BOYCE 001
Portrait of Sonia Boyce, Leeds Art Gallery. Photo: Rob Battersby

Sonia Boyce DBE RA (b. London, 1962) is an interdisciplinary artist and academic working across film, drawing, photography, print, sound, and installation. In 2022, she presented FEELING HER WAY, a major commission for the British Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia for which she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation.

Boyce came to prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning British Black Arts Movement with figurative pastel drawings and photo collages that addressed issues of race and gender in Britain. Since the 1990s, however, Boyce has shifted significantly to embrace a social practice that invites improvisation, collaboration, movement, and sound with other people. Working across a range of media, Boyce’s practice today is focused on questions of artistic authorship and cultural difference.

In 2016, Boyce was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and in 2023, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science in Boston. Since graduating in the early 1980s, Boyce has consistently worked within the art school context. In 2014, she became a professor at University of the Arts London, where she holds the inaugural Chair in Black Art and Design. A three-year research project into Black Artists and Modernism culminated with a 2018 BBC documentary Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History, exploring the contribution of overlooked artists of African and Asian descent to the story of modern British art. In the King’s New Year Honours List of 2024, Boyce was awarded a Damehood.

Her work is in many UK and international museum collections including Tate, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Arts Council Collection of England, London; British Council, London; Government Art Collection, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; and Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP), Paris.

Catalogues

Soniaboyce feelingherway book
Sonia Boyce
Feeling Her Way

$40.00
ISBN 9780300266054

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