Martin Boyce

Gate (We don’t meet here. We are always together first.)


Not on display
Martin Boyce born 1967
Steel, painted aluminium and shoelace
1580 x 2000 x 50 mm
Purchased using funds provided by the 2004 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2005


Boyce makes sculptures and installations that refer to the modern urban environment. He first gained international recognition for work that addressed the legacy of Modernism. He was interested in the changing cultural meaning and status of iconic twentieth-century objects, such as chairs by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) or shelving units by American designers Charles & Ray Eames (1907-1978 and 1912-1988), which aimed to reflect the egalitarian social project of Modernism but, Boyce would argue, have been subsumed by the contemporary culture of consumerism.

More recently, Boyce has shifted his attention away from domestic and corporate interiors to exteriors, particularly the urban park. In recent installations he has created dreamlike landscapes that hover between the real and the imaginary. Sculptures made from industrial materials including steel and neon abstract the bare trees, benches, rubbish bins, fences and gates in a typical inner city park.

Gate (We don't meet here. We are always together first.) is typical of this recent body of work. The work is a functioning gate comprising two sections of powder-coated steel. The bracketed half of the gate is matte silver and forms an open grid with true verticals and angled horizontals. This angled grid has been a recurring motif in Boyce’s work. Reflecting the artist’s interest in mid-century design, the grid echoes the graphic lines in the famous opening credits designed by Saul Bass (1920-1996) for North by Northwest 1959 directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980). Overlapping and extending the silver metal section of the gate is a large piece of bright yellow wire mesh. A thin moulded yellow tube outlines the curve of the gate’s edge. A rectangular metal plate painted white is attached to the front of the gate at eye level. This plate resembles a plain piece of paper with visible folds suggesting the schematic outline of a tree. A white shoelace hangs down from a corner of the paper; Boyce intends this to be read like a drip of paint.

The two-part construction of the gate is an elegant abstraction of derelict urban fencing with improvised repairs while the white metal plate suggests detritus blown against the gate’s surface. The heightened colours give the sculpture a slightly surreal quality, suggesting the subjective landscape of memory.

Boyce has described the poetic atmosphere in his work, saying:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of utopias, and the way we can create them for ourselves, the way you create a space for yourself, whether that’s a physical space, a psychological space or an emotional space that you could describe as a utopia ... I wanted to have that same feeling, of a space you might have occupied as a teenager, that place you find for yourself. Exterior spaces like a park at night. The kind of urban park, that gap between the city and the suburbs, or gaps inside the city (quoted in Jack Mottram, ‘Martin Boyce’, 2002,

Boyce’s gate suggests a portal, an ordinary part of the urban fabric that assumes disproportionate meaning for the people who visit and make use of it. The social, collective nature of teenage leisure is alluded to in the work’s subtitle, which evokes narrative readings of the gate as the backdrop to adolescent rites of passage.

Further reading:
Martin Boyce, Douglas Coupland and Raymond MacDonald, Martin Boyce: This Place is Dreaming, exhibition catalogue, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and Tramway, Glasgow 2003.
Will Bradley, Martin Boyce: Undead Dreams, exhibition catalogue, RomaRomaRoma, Rome 2003.
Tom Gidley and Robert Johnston, Martin Boyce, exhibition catalogue, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh 2000.

Rachel Taylor
August 2005

Display caption

Boyce describes the atmosphere he intended to evoke with this elegant abstraction of urban fencing as the ‘idea of a gateway into another place – it’s the very beginning of the landscape.’ A park gateway, an ordinary part of the urban environment, can assume profound significance for the people who visit and make use of it, this work suggests. ‘I wanted to have that same feeling, of a space that you might have occupied as a teenager, that place you find for yourself’, Boyce has said.

Gallery label, April 2012

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