Martin Boyce

from ‘Our Love is Like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and the Hours’


Not on display

Martin Boyce born 1967
Steel, wood and fluorescent tubes
Overall display dimensions variable
Purchased 2006


T12312 is part of a larger installation that was shown at the artist’s solo exhibition, entitled
Our Love is Like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and the Hours, at Tramway, Glasgow in 2002. The group of elements that Tate owns consists of sculptures that are made of industrial materials and evoke real objects: three trees, two park benches and two park rubbish bins of different colours and sizes. Fluorescent tubes in minimal metal housings that have been gloss-painted in light blue are assembled to suggest three simple tree shapes, comprising a trunk and three or four branches. The trees are each suspended from the ceiling with a steel chain so that they do not quite touch the ground; at 2.5cm from it, they give the impression of hovering. The benches and bins are positioned around the trees. They are made of a combination of existing standardised steel tubes and elements of laser-cut and folded steel. One of the benches has legs and supports for a seat and a backrest at either end and is spray-painted in yellow gloss; the other is longer, with an additional central leg and back support and a black gloss spray-painted finish. Both benches are powder-coated. The black bench has a single length of hardwood as a back support. This is stained and wire-brushed. The benches have no seats and are not intended to be functional. The bins of the installation are four-sided and are made to appear as if they lean to one side from whichever angle they are viewed. The smaller bin has a black gloss spray-painted finish, while the larger has a red gloss spray-painted finish. All the light in the installation comes from the neon tubes, and a dimmer switch for adjustment is attached to each of the trees. The installation could be shown in different configurations depending on the size of the room and the place of the exhibition. Ideally it should be installed in a separate room, or area, of approximately 50 sq metres. It is, however, always supposed to convey the feeling of a winter hinterland. Groups of elements of the work may be installed separately, or the work may be installed as one element of a larger room installation of works by the artist, for example in combination with Gate (We don’t meet here. We are always together first.) 2004 (T11905).

Boyce makes sculptures and installations that explore the modern urban environment, in both domestic interiors and exteriors. Our Love ... alludes to an urban park at night, a theme that is central in Boyce’s work. It is also an expression of the artist’s interest in utopia. As he notes:

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 Mottram.)

In the installation that Tate owns Boyce seeks to create a dark, poetic, dreamlike atmosphere that oscillates between reality and imagination, and that simultaneously evokes feelings of familiarity and imminence. As the writer Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith observes, ‘his dimly lit vistas are ... as often tinged with malevolence as with tristesse’ (Mac Giolla Léith, p.123).

The urban park theme in Boyce’s work follows a period in which the artist specifically addressed the modernist legacy. Furniture, in particular, figured prominently during that period. The artist created installations in which he replicated or appropriated classic mid-twentieth century objects by designers such as Charles and Ray Eames (1912–88, 1907–78), Arne Jacobsen (1902–71) and Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969). With them he evoked a sense of nostalgia for modernism’s utopia, while at the same time conveying a sense of paranoia and dread. He sought to explore ways in which iconic modernist objects, such as Jacobsen chairs or Eames shelving units, which were a concrete expression of the social project of modernism, had been subsumed by the contemporary culture of consumerism. These elements of his work figure in Our Love ... in the form of benches and bins. The installation brings together Boyce’s dual interest in urban interiors and exteriors, which can be said to add to the multiple levels of interpretation of his work. As the writer Elizabeth Fisher observes: ‘The disquieting balance of opposites, of intimacy and distance, interior and exterior, beauty and tension within this installations seems to amplify the unlocatable anxiety, paranoia and dysfunction in contemporary cities at the same time as it encourages an almost nostalgic reverie.’ (Fisher.)

Further reading:
Jack Mottram, ‘Martin Boyce’, 2002,, accessed 18 August 2010.
Elizabeth Fisher, ‘Martin Boyce’ in Sodium Dreams, online exhibition text, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York 2003,, accessed 18 August 2010, reproduced.
Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, ‘Permanent Dusk: the Afterlife of Forms’, in Martin Boyce, exhibition catalogue, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 2008, pp.116–23.

Evi Baniotopoulou
August 2010

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