The British Council is delighted to unveil a major solo exhibition of work by artist Sonia Boyce OBE RA for the British Pavilion at this year’s 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.
Running from 23 April – 27 November 2022, Boyce’s installation Feeling Her Way immerses visitors in the collaborative dynamism of five Black female musicians (four British, one Swedish) brought together by the artist to improvise, interact and play with their voices. Colour-tinted video works take centre stage among Boyce’s signature tessellating wallpapers and golden 3-D geometric structures, which bring the audience into the work through their highly reflective surfaces. The rooms of the pavilion are filled with sounds – sometimes harmonious, sometimes clashing – embodying feelings of freedom, power and vulnerability.
Vocalists include award-winning, intergenerational singers: Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth MBE, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram and composer Errollyn Wallen CBE – all linked by their jazz and soul influences and impressive vocals. The central video installation will show the singers as they meet for the first time, improvise and perform together acapella, demonstrating the potential of collaborative play as a route to innovation, a central theme in Boyce’s practice. The videos were filmed at Abbey Road Studios in London and Atlantis Studios in Stockholm.
This new commission expands on Boyce’s Devotional Collection, built over 20+ years and spanning more than three centuries, which honours the substantial contribution of Black British female musicians to the emotional lives of the public and to transnational culture. Works from this collection – vinyl, CDs, books and ephemera – form part of the installation in the pavilion, elevated by golden plinths.
On the British Council Commission, Sonia Boyce commented:
“I feel deeply honoured to have been selected to produce this work for the British Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2022. The wealth of generosity and sheer talent of those who have contributed to making Feeling Her Way has been immense and I am so proud of what has been achieved. Most of all the performers who dared to go on this journey – they are absolutely brilliant!”
Emma Dexter, British Council Director Visual Arts, Commissioner of the British Pavilion and Chair of the British Pavilion Selection Committee, said:
“We are extremely proud to have Sonia Boyce representing Britain at the Biennale Arte 2022. Feeling Her Way typifies Sonia’s highly collaborative way of working – bringing together performers in the spirit of inclusiveness, generosity, experimentation and play. This exhibition is her most ambitious to date and brings fresh ideas and perspectives to the British Pavilion. It asks us to consider how Black British female musicians have played a part in our own lives, moreover it encourages us to immerse ourselves in a truly joyful experience.”
The exhibition is curated by Emma Ridgway, who was selected as the Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator of the British Pavilion through an open call. From January 2021, she has worked alongside Sonia Boyce and the British Council team to deliver the exhibition and has written the essay for the catalogue Feeling Her Way.
Curator Emma Ridgway, (Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator) of the British Pavilion at Biennale, said:
“It has been a privilege and pleasure to work with Sonia Boyce, the performers, production teams and the British Council on this uplifting exhibition. Central to the exhibition are Boyce’s colour-filtered video works that immerse the gallery spaces in the emotive sound of women singing. Powerful singing requires both imagination and the maximising of each individual breath; particularly relevant in our recent times, as both breathing and improvising together in uncertain situations have become vital.”
The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK's artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. A panel of visual art specialists from across the UK selected the artist for Biennale Arte 2022.
This year the British Pavilion is made possible through the support of individuals, companies and foundations, including headline partner, Burberry.
Sonia Boyce’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte Venice runs from 23 April – 27 November 2022. For more information visit https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/.
Full press pack, including images and B-roll footage can be found here: https://bit.ly/Venice2022
Watch the exhibition walk-through video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPw9DA1z3ww
For media enquiries regarding the British Council’s commission for the British Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia please contact:
Rebecca Ward for the British Council +44 (0) 7977 071450
Claire McAuley, British Council +44 7542268752
Claire.McAuley@britishcouncil.org Or email the press team: firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Pavilion is commissioned and managed by British Council Visual Arts.
Commissioner: Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at British Council
For news on the British Council commission: visualarts.britishcouncil.org/
For British Council Venice press office updates: https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/press
Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Feeling Her Way. A fully illustrated 168-page publication accompanies this exhibition, containing an essay by curator Emma Ridgway with new photography from this year’s Biennale and an interview with the artist conducted by Dr Courtney Martin published by Yale University Press at £25/$35.00 (ISBN 978 0 300 26605 4)
Feeling Her Way will tour to Turner Contemporary Margate, UK with the support of Art Fund in 2023, and to Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, US in 2024.
The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 23 April – 27 November 2022
19-22 April: 10am – 7pm (preview days)
23 April – 25 September 11am – 7pm
27 September – 27 November 10am – 6pm
Closed on Mondays except (April 25th, May 30th, June 27th, July 25th, August 15th, September 5th, September 19th, October 31st, November 21st).
About Sonia Boyce
Sonia Boyce OBE RA was born in London, UK in 1962, where she continues to live and work. In 2019, the artist received an OBE for services to art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art.
In 2016, Boyce was elected a Royal Academician, and received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. Between 2012 - 2017, Boyce was Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University and since 2014 she has been Professor at the University of the Arts London. As the inaugural Chair of Black Art & Design she led on a 3-year research project into Black Artists & Modernism, which led to a BBC documentary Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History (2018). Recent solo exhibitions include In the Castle of My Skin, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK (2020), touring to Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), Middlesbrough, UK (2021); Sonia Boyce, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2018); Sonia Boyce: We move in her way, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK (2017) and Paper Tiger Whisky Soap Theatre (Dada Nice), Villa Arson, Nice, France (2016).
In 2015 she was included in the 56th International Art of La Biennale di Venezia All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor. Her work is held in the collections of Tate, London, UK; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; Arts Council Collection, London, UK; The Government Art Collection, London, UK; British Council Collection, London, UK and Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK. Sonia Boyce represents the UK at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with a major new commission for the British Pavilion in 2022.
About Emma Ridgway
Emma Ridgway is the Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator of the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte in Venice. Her talks and writing on art focus on aesthetics and political freedoms. In 2022, her essays are featured in Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way (Yale University Press), Ruth Asawa: Citizen of the Universe (Thames and Hudson), and Anish Kapoor: Painting (Koenig Books).
Ridgway is Chief Curator at leading contemporary arts organisation Modern Art Oxford, where she has led the artistic direction of the exhibitions and learning programme since 2015. In Oxford she has curated the first major UK exhibitions of Ruth Asawa (2022), Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid (2017), Fourth Plinth winner Samson Kambalu (2021), and of the paintings of Anish Kapoor a former British representative at La Biennale di Venezia. Ridgway was previously a curator at the Barbican Centre, the Royal Society of Arts, Serpentine Gallery and Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi. Ridgway is a Clore Leadership Fellow, an advisor to the UK Cultural Learning Alliance and has degrees in fine art, art history and curating from Goldsmiths and The Royal College of Art, London.
About the British Pavilion Selection Committee
The artist commissioned to represent Great Britain at the Biennale Arte is selected by an advisory panel of leading visual arts professionals, from across the UK. The panel membership changes for every edition of the Biennale. The panel selecting the artist for 2022 was chaired by Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, and included:
- Irene Aristizábal – Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Head of Curatorial and Public Practice, BALTIC, Gateshead
- Beth Bate – Director, Dundee Contemporary Arts
- Mary Cremin – Director, Void Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland
- Elvira Dyangani Ose – Director, MACBA Contemporary Art Museum, Barcelona
- David Hevey – Director, Shape Arts CEO & Artistic Director
- Alistair Hudson – Director, The Whitworth, and Manchester Art Gallery
- Hammad Nasar – Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Principal Research Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute, UAL; Lead Curator at Herbert Art Gallery Coventry’s City of Culture Programme 2021-22
- Nicholas Thornton – Head of Fine Art, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
About the British Pavilion
Artists commissioned to represent Britain have included: Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Frank Auerbach, Barry Flanagan, Howard Hodgkin, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Leon Kossoff, Rachel Whiteread, Gary Hume, Mark Wallinger, Chris Ofili, Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Steve McQueen, Mike Nelson, Jeremy Deller, Sarah Lucas, Phyllida Barlow and Cathy Wilkes (2019).
To find out more about previous British Pavilion exhibitions and British Council Visual Arts visit: venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/history and visualarts.britishcouncil.org/
About the Venice Fellowships
The Venice Fellowships enable students and volunteers to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture biennales: