Yvonne Boag

Yvonne Boag’s luminous new paintings and gouaches that belie a complexity in the making, wrought from a half century of experimenting, and honing her talent, will appear in three consecutive exhibitions within Seoul, Sydney, and Melbourne.

The Scottish born Australian artist looks straight at the camera, a no-nonsense flock of red curly hair frames her face, one hand is nestled in her pocket, the other cuddles a fluffy white dog – a disciplined animal poised on the artist’s work bench amidst a scatter of working drawings. Further afield, a vast array of primed canvases, easels, trolleys transporting pigments and a table and chairs for artist-catch-ups, are all flecked with natural light sparking the scent of industry and success, opportunity and focus. This photograph, too low resolution to reproduce, details so much.

Cut to the Seoul studio and one beam of light eeks from a fluorescent tube, illuminates a minuscule studio where sketchbook sized gouaches nuzzle for space as Boag prepares for her forthcoming Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney show. The exhibition’s title, All Over The Place, is a sign-post for the artist straddling worlds where art, life, and travel are inextricably linked.

“In Seoul I work in a tiny studio, explore the city day and night in buses and taxis, am surrounded by light and energy. In Sydney I work on larger paintings, enjoy the sea of Brighton Le Sands, the vast sky, the garden, my animals . . . “Zine the white dog has a beautiful spirit. I found her in Seoul on the street, brought her back to Sydney. There’s Jasper too, and Alba, the black cat. I got her to control a rat problem under my studio floor. She now has complete control of the rat and the dog situation. In both places though it is the forging of friendships with artists that keeps me alive.”

Since being awarded the inaugural Asialink Korean studio in 1995, Boag has navigated making art between the two cities. “Even though in Korea I feel a displacement because the language, the written text, and the culture are so foreign, at the same time I feel a familiarity with the people and the landscape. I am invigorated by the challenge of surviving and creating in a world that is unfamiliar and one that is too familiar.”

Boag has been highly successful in transposing the timbre of those worlds in charged pictorial arrangements where striking colours and forms torment the boundaries of abstraction and figuration. This energy has earned her over seventy solo shows, one hundred and eighty nine award and group exhibitions, and inclusion in impressive international collections as far ranging as Aberdeen Art Gallery, Scotland, to Atelier Franck Bordas, Paris, and the Australian National Gallery, Canberra.

Further, in 2020 Boag was awarded the national Paddington Art Prize, her Yerriyong (Regrowth After Fires), a cracking celebration of life after crippling bushfires enveloped New South Wales.

Throughout Boag’s career trajectory she cites early compelling influences – Georges Braque, his sense of simultaneous perspective, Roger Hilton, his engagement with the shallow picture plane, Louise Bourgeois’s sense of art as restorative, William Scott’s interplay between abstraction and representation, and Bridget Riley’s optical vibrancy.

Boag, feeling restrained by Western colour theory however, embraced Korean artist Yoo Youngkuk’s sensory play with colour and form. “In Korea colour is used in a symbolic shamanistic way, not just as a reflection of what can be seen. It just seems to flow freely through Korean culture. The rules are different, closer to the way I feel colour which for me is completely intuitive. I know the shape of each colour, feel its weight. It has no words. It is precise and completely logical to me.” And in this way Boag reveals yet hides her process, working like a clever creatrix, the final outcome seamlessly appearing.

Caroline Field, Senior Curator with the Australian Catholic University, regards viewing Boag’s work as a “powerful, life-affirming and richly rewarding visual experience.” Field presented Unravelling, a survey of Boag’s work at Melbourne’s Stonington Stables Museum of Art, and believes “Boag’s sustained and highly sophisticated practice places her at the forefront of symbolic abstraction in contemporary Australian art.”

In Horseshoe Bay, 2021, Boag uses a rich acrylic palette of geometric and organic shapes to capture the mood of South Australia’s Fluerieu Peninsula or in Hay Plain Morning, 2019, where delicate juxtapositions of gouache still the eye.

On viewing her works, I am reminded of Prodigies, an essay by neurologist Oliver Sacks. He discusses creativity, suggesting that it involves the power to “move freely in the realm of the imagination, to create and re-create worlds fully in one’s mind – while supervising all this with a critical inner eye.” Boag’s unique critical inner eye which glows like a pilot light masking her hard work and sensitivity, is the kind that has a wily Scot saving a Seoul street dog, the kind that creates art that you want to stay with.

This article was originally published in Issue 63 of Artist Profile

All Over The Place
1 – 26 August, 2023
Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney


Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related