Eyestorm, London, United Kingdom

Billet Doux by Boyd Webb

Boyd Webb Biography

Christchurch, New Zealand, 1947

Boyd Webb attended London's Royal College of Art in the early 70s and came to prominence alongside contemporaries such as Richard Wentworth, Richard Deacon and Alison Wilding. His work involves the creation of fantastical tableaux which are then made into richly colored photographs.

By the late 80s the artist had shifted his focus towards an investigation into the 'natural world', a world which is always under threat by technology and human exploitation. Although still working with the artifice of tableaux, Webb's images became more austere and dark. The arrested movement of nature symbolized by deflated plastic toy ducks and globes is a recurrent theme in works such as Plant (1989), which imagines the infiltration of nature by warheads. Suckling (1989) is a diptych of pink and blue inflatable toy jellyfishes that buoy and protect babies on an empty plastic sea. This work gestured towards a new concern with biology and the artifice of photography.

For Webb there exists a parallel between the manipulation of the image in photography and of gene modification in plants and animals. These two areas of technology extends the artifice/reality dialectic of Webb's earlier work. There is a deep mistrust contained in those things most people cannot see or know about like DNA manipulation or digital technology, between what is there and what should be there. In works from the mid-90s such as Zygote, Sap and Tutelar, the picture's frame becomes microscopic. In the latter photograph we are made witness to an improbable scenario of conception: a large phalanx of sperm-like squiggles approach an orange 'egg' contained within a pink net sack and held aloft by a man's hand which enters the image from the left. For Webb, the permanent intervention of science and technology on our lives is all but improbable.

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand, 1999. Touring in Asia-Pacific in 2000.

Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1997

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, 1997

Villa Arson, Nice, France, 1996

Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1995

Ruth Bloom Gallery, Santa Monica, USA, 1994

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

'Boyd Webb: A Retrospective, Auckland Art Gallery', 1997. Essay by Jenny Harper.

'Spellbound: art and film', Hayward Gallery and the British Film Institute, London, 1996. Essay by Michael O'Pray.

'Boyd Webb', The British Council, 1994. Essay by Greg Hilty.

Mellor, David Alan, 'The Fantastic Voyage: New Works by Boyd Webb, 1992-1994', Portfolio Magazine, no 19, Summer, p44-51.

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