This week we will be talking to artist Chantelle May Boyle where she tackles themes of life and death within a range of performance and sculpture, exploring the process of deconstruction to expose the rough, raw reality of life.
Image description: a landscape poster depicting with bold white text reading Chantelle May Boyle in the top right. Directly underneath in a smaller font reads @chantellemayboyle. The background shows a heap of assorted stuffed toys ripped apart with a pile of stuffing on the floor. Overlaid on the left is a portrait image of a performance showing the performer dressed in a rabbit costume, sitting on a pile of hay.
Can you give us a brief overview of your practice?
My work is concerned with the theme of life and death floating between uncanny presences and agonising compositions, Hybrid is a project that develops from destruction. The pieces are showings of physical destruction which reflect upon a more deep and intricate self-coping mechanism against pain and the feelings of emptiness and loss.
Endearing objects such as stuffed animals are stripped down to what they truly are - a conjunction of stuffing and fabric with little details like bow ties and sparkling button eyes- and put together to bring new disturbing figures to life.
The audience is exposed to a rough, raw reality where there is no opportunity for the aesthetically pleasing but for the externalisation of our everyday piled up feelings. Hybrid is about liberation and soul purification. It is about searching for a way out of emotional defeat. It is coping.
Much of your work explores physical destruction. What interest you in this concept?
Much of my work explores physical destruction as this concept intrigues me to see whether the destruction of objects such as teddy bears is seen as destruction. Physical destruction and
manipulation of various materials I use intrigues me as I want to see how much I can destroy a material. I want to see how far I can push an element to the brink of no return to see if I see it as still being of use to me.
The concept of physical destruction interests me as I want to see what I can destroy and if I do destroy it I do not see it as destruction. I see the process of physical destruction as liberating for
myself, I see it as a liberating act away from the everyday. The process in which I make and create art requires some sort of physical destruction from ripping open stuffed animals to the making of figures. Each process I take in making work I manipulate and destruct materials into how I want to use them and how I see them for a piece.
Physical destruction is a huge part of what I do as an artist I destruct toys and materials from duvets to rubber masks each material being cut and tore a-part in such a brutal way. I tear down and break down materials to the bare core of what they are. I like to see what is underneath the toy and I like to showcase what people do not see that in every act we make is destructive. I like to showcase how we as humans are destructive beings in the way we use and abuse everything we can get our hands on. We use materials to our advantage to consume and in this sense we are all destructive and this interests me.
Chantelle May Boyle, Teddy Car, sculpture, 2019
Image description: a landscape photo showing a white brick room with a collection of destroyed stuffed animals piled on the floor amongst pieces of fabric and stuffing. The performer dressed in a bear costume lies on the floor to the edge of the frame.
Are there any artists or research that influences the way you make art?
Artist’s that influence the way I make art are as follows:
Paul McCarthy inspires my work with his grotesque and unsettling scenes, which are often abject and repulsive. However, we are always intrigued and entertained in some way as the work can be humorous. This is exactly the same kind of connection I want my own art to have with the audience.
Marina Abramović inspires the performance aspect of my art as her work looks at endurance and at the relationship between the performer and the audience. In my performances I really strive to incite this feeling of uncertainty of unease in the audience. I have always liked this idea of a relationship being formed between the one performing and the one watching. Marina inspires me in how she challenges society and how she engages with her audience. She has pushed boundaries and broken plenty stereotypes as a woman artist.
Annette Messager inspires me for her rejection of the traditional methods in visual arts. I have also taken great inspiration from Annette’s use of materials, how she manipulates them into forms and how her work hangs in gallery spaces in such a displaced but coherent manner.
Mike Kelley has been a great source of inspiration since University; his use of found objects, assemblages and stuffed toys. His use of found items and stuffed animals in a sculptural form was a pivotal point in how I see objects. When I first saw his work, it completely realigned my use of material from how I used skins of stuffed animals to what I saw as worthy of being used. I now look at every item that I come across as something that can definitely be used for sculpting.
Many of your artworks have a performative element to them. Is this an essential part of your practice?
Performance/performative work is an essential part of my practice as I like my work to have a living life like appearance especially my figures that I create. I want each piece that I make or perform as to have a life of its own to have its own world that I create. I believe each sculpture I make or teddy I cut open has a life of its own in a way that we cannot see it has lived it has a past whether that be from it came from to who made it.
My figures have a performative element as you never really know if someone is inside the figure or whether it is an inanimate object. The audience never truly knows whether the piece is going to walk or stand there or interact with them. This is a key concept within my work playing with the idea of life.
Your work often incorporates costumes and props, do you attempt to embody particular characters in your performances?
In terms of my performances I like to use costumes and props to add to a scene that I create in my performances. I embody animal characteristics in my performances such as pigs, rabbits to bears in my performances I mix together hybrid forms with these different animals. The characters I create are just a union of two animals in my own head sometimes there isn’t a methodical approach to my work pieces sometimes just merge and fuse together. My performances often are the same in a way as they seem to just happen I have an idea and probably sub consciously I am thinking of the ideas in my head but it just happens.
Chantelle May Boyle, Rabbit caught in headlights, performance, 2019
Image description: a portrait image of a performance showing the performer dressed in a rabbit costume, sitting on a pile of hay. The background shows a large black curtain with a cut out that has been replaced with translucent fabric.
Can you give us an insight into the experiences you've had during the pandemic and how you've adapted to still create art?
During the pandemic I have found it a mixture of emotions and struggles along with success during this time. I have found it difficult in the sense that I have had less opportunities to have public art exhibitions and performances so that has been limiting.
Even though this pandemic has been hard I always try and look on the positive side of life. In terms of thinking positively about this situation I have had the chance to showcase work on an online platform which has been a really exciting way to share my work. Also I have had a chance to create work even more so in my studio space and utilise my time that I now have due to the pandemic which has really been beneficial for my practise.
Furthermore I have adapted in ways to still create by taking advantage of the fact that I have a large space in which I can create my sculptures and take photographs of my pieces in different settings. I have adapted to how my work is now seen and the opportunities that are now available. To be honest I like the fact that during the pandemic artists have taken to the internet more and now online exhibitions and showcasing is on a rise.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
One thing I would change about the art industry to make it better for artists and creatives would be to pay artists!!! Yes pay artists for their work for whatever they do from exhibitions to making artwork to performances and helping out in exhibitions. There needs to be more precedence on an artist as a breadwinner as someone who needs financial stability as much as the next person. From funding to winning prizes and offering cash or even second place prizes gifts in competitions. Recognition needs to be given to artists especially emerging artists from organisations to institutions. Artists need opportunities to showcase work but also feel they are appreciated and noticed in the art world.
What projects have you recently been working on?
I have been working on a sculptural/performance piece for some months now. It will include a large sculpture – probably the biggest I have ever done – alongside a performance and some figures with it. This piece will be an accumulation of live photographs and a live stream along with a video piece that can be viewed.
I also have some Instagram takeovers coming up, so be sure to check out my social media to know when those are happening. I have some ideas for possible exhibitions that I want to set up in my studio space, so there might be some exciting times ahead!
Chantelle May Boyle, Elma, sculpture, 2021
Image description: a portrait image of a sculpture created from a stuffed pink bear onesie. Purple gloves with black claws are added for hands, and a white gas masked is added under the hood to form a face.
You have stated that you aim to present raw reality within your work. How do you go about
To achieve this idea of a raw reality within my artwork I try to expose my audience to the familiar in ways such as using materials such as toy’s and masks with facial features alike to us as humans. I try to showcase a reality in how we view the world from such a narrow minded view and how my work contradicts and is familiar all in one.
I achieve this raw reality aspect in my work by concentrating upon what I see in society how I view us as humans from what we do to what we say to how we look. I expose us for our true selves or something that we do not want to face our own raw reality, and we can see this in my work in how it makes us feel uncomfortable and uneasy. I want to showcase the world and our surroundings and really highlight what we do as human beings to the planet to animals to ourselves.
If you would like to see more from Chantelle you can view her work on Instagram @chantellemayboyle.
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.