by Frank Ruhrmund
From its title Swimming in the shallows – a line borrowed from the American song More Yellow Birds – to its mix of landscapes and female figures studies that are not what they may at first appear to be, there is much to intrigue in the exhibition by Falmouth-based Jamie Boyd currently being held in Cornwall Contemporary, Penzance.
Born at Eastbourne in East Sussex, he studied at Eastbourne College of Arts and Technology where he gained a BTEC National Diploma, Distinction, and at Falmouth University where he was awarded a BA (hons) First class, and gained his MA for Illustration, Authorial Practice.
Since then, aside from deciding to remain in Falmouth, to set up his studio there and to start making his presence felt on the exhibition scene with a number of shows at various venues throughout Cornwall and further a field from Devon to Berkshire, Norfolk to Surrey, and of course, London, with the help of various awards he has also travelled widely.
In 2003, for instance, he gained a Ferdinand Zweig Scholarship which allowed him to take a “Grand Tour” through Europe following in the footsteps of J M W Turner and visiting the places he painted, and more recently he has made self-funded, extended visits to Kenya and New Zealand.
The former provided him with the subject matter for his solo show The Face of Kenya held only last year in Penryn, and it was his return from Africa which gave rise to his current show.
As he says: “I'd been away long enough for the plants from outside the studio to creep under the door and stretch across the floor, while the studio was also flooded with stacks of images that I'd gathered before abandoning them to go abroad.”
It was the sorting of all this material and the “turning over of collections of sketchbooks, paintings and photographs” that led him to develop the subject matter within his studio and produce the eclectic mix of watercolours and woodcuts, the 45 works from Bather and Bad Touch to Nurse and Night Club, that make up this exhibition.
While his figure paintings, Girl with Flower to Thinking Girl, are filled with life and would seem to have been drawn and painted from the model, they surprise in that their origins lie largely in illustrations and photographs found in fashion magazines and are, in fact, imaginary, make-belief creations.
Surprisingly strongly worked watercolours, almost three-dimensional, sculptural in approach and style, they reflect the artist's fondness for the flow of his medium, for the act of painting itself.
Jamie Boyd is fortunate in having a waterfront studio in Falmouth with a harbour view, and his several impressionist North Quay studies complement his figure paintings and add enormously to the pleasure of the show.
While he admits “by not straying from the studio images and the view from its door, I've become closer to the subjects, a return to Swimming in the shallows one feels it will not matter too much in the future whether he swims in the shallows or in the deep end, he will be equally at home and, whether inspired by things seen at home or abroad, continue to make paintings that are intriguing as they are inspiring, as pleasing as the are potent.
Well worth a visit, admission is free, and Jamie Boyd's Swimming in the Shallows can be seen in Cornwall Contemporary 1 Parade street, Queens Square, Penzance, 10am – 5pm, Monday to Saturday, until March 1st.