Anthony Boswell is an active blogger on Artists Talking, the a-n blogging platform for artists. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Anthony’s practice unfold and last year I was struck by seeing his work ‘Time Box’ pictured in an essay written by my colleague and friend Becky Huff Hunter. I went back to Anthony’s work and had a closer look. I hadn’t actually met Anthony and our connection through Artists Talking had been brief and intermittent with only occasional comments to each other on our respective blogs. Anthony’s blog posts often deal with issues of time spent waiting and the effects this kind of relationship with time can have on creativity and one’s emotional and mental states. In his ‘Time Box’, I saw an interesting statement on the influence of memory and time, and the transformation that takes place in time and us as a result.
Jane Boyer: ‘Place’ is of major importance to your work. You have achieved an interesting merging of identity and context through ‘place’; it’s as if ‘place’ represents both an identity and a context simultaneously. Can you tell us more about the significance this has for you and your work?
Anthony Boswell: The real basis for my paintings is the home, specifically my own home, because what I want to achieve is capturing ideas of intimacy. Also the effects of time on place, so thinking about my own life within the home and how time affects the fears, doubts, hopes and wishes as well as daily activities. I feel it’s a place where I can try to exercise some control over the environment by controlling time within that environment. The idea of the clock running forwards but appearing to run backwards in ‘Time Box’ is about being stuck in the middle of that, about freezing time. I don’t think I could achieve that anywhere outside of the home, because the home is such an intimate place. The subject I deal with is about intimate things. You can also get the feelings of loss, because of the things that aren’t there as much as they are there; this creates an air of melancholy in the work.
JB: Becky Huff Hunter refers to the temporal loop and the endlessly returning of ‘something missing’ in the melancholic state in the essay, ‘On Time, Repetition and Melancholia’, she wrote about your work. Is there ‘something missing’ or has the loop replayed itself so often it has become an entity of its own for you?
“The ticking clock in the mirror runs backwards, indicating disorder. Its face points up, directing one’s gaze perpetually back and forth between the real and the reflected scene. This doubled stage disrupts the completeness of conventional viewing, fixing instead a boxed-in, spatial and temporal loop…[i]n a psychoanalytic account, the painful, desiring state of melancholia is full of such returns, endlessly
circling in one’s mind something perceived to be missing.”
from ‘On Time, Repetition and Melancholia’
AB: I think the loop has become an actual entity of itself. The subject does repeat itself very often. I find myself working within the framework of the loop. My very self is stuck within the loop; melancholy comes because I am stuck in the loop. Perhaps what’s missing is what’s outside that loop or the fear of its ceasing to be a loop and become something that runs forward in time. All those fears and hopes, everything the intimacy within the home brings, begins to open up to a greater loss and eventually time will bring the loss of things because of the infinite nature of time; everything outside of time is infinite. As Becky says, there is always a longing with melancholy.
JB: Your latest work is a series of paintings in your house, however the house is not the subject of these paintings; the emotional translation of a life lived, light, shadow and time is the subject. It is a context but in your work it is less a context than an identity. It is not wholly your identity because the place & space influences how you feel. Have the dissolutions of these boundaries given you freedom or are you contained and confined, captured like the light sources in your paintings?
AB: It’s quite an interesting way of looking at it. The subject is as you say. The light starts to reveal something that is always slightly out of reach. I’ve never thought of it from that point of view, but it’s interesting to think about how much of the control is being forced upon me rather than the other way around and maybe that’s why there is always such a sense of melancholy longing because I’m never satisfying what I’m trying to achieve. Maybe I’m not actually in control. For what I’m trying to achieve in my paintings, life outside of the house is quite insignificant in a way. But thinking about the fact I’m not able to make a painting unless I feel comfortable with the situation in the house, the light or a certain part of the room and how it all fits in together; that is actually out of my control. I can’t control the light, how it comes into the house or what type of light. There are boundaries being put on my creating of the paintings. Until the light reveals itself in a certain way and shadows are made in a certain way, I don’t witness anything and I can’t make the artwork until that situation arises. Waiting for it to come along is quite a powerful thing because I never know when it’s going to happen, sometimes it comes quite quickly and spontaneously and sometimes you have to wait.
JB: ‘Time Box’ is a surreal statement on time, memory and recall in the sense of ‘knowing’ the truth of something rather than simply remembering the specific details of it. This knowing and memory can be at odds sometimes and time can be the disrupter between the two. Is this the message of ‘Time Box’ for you? What do you see in ‘Time Box’?
AB: The message of Time Box for me is being contained. It’s about being inside an environment that is really familiar and trying to stay in the present; you don’t want to necessarily go back to the past but you definitely don’t want to run into the future, so it’s trying to keep within the loop, trying to be completely stationary in the present. But also apart from being something familiar, it’s a space which can be quite intense as well. You can’t sit comfortably within it. It gives a sense that you’re looking down on a life which isn’t your own. There is an unfamiliarity amongst the familiar within it.
JB: How does this reflect on your view of self and identity?
AB: Identity is quite a difficult thing for me because my own view of identity is a unique personal view rather than understanding things as cultural identity. I mean obviously I understand cultural identity and identity in a wider scope, but my own view of identity is to think of everyone as an individual. Though I’m really aware of everyone else in the world, I’m not aware of people being part of a culture or a wider context of things. When I think about it, I just think of all these people with their own unique personal identities. I think I’ve just imagined them in their space in their privacy grappling with the same things I’m grappling with, you know with the fears, the longing and the doubts. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just wrapped up with self isn’t it? I suppose I want everyone to deal with the bigger questions by coming to know themselves. I find if you know yourself you come to know a lot more about the wider context of things.
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