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Britain’s representative for the Venice Biennale, artist Sonia Boyce to visit Helsinki in September

British artist, professor and researcher Sonia Boyce will visit the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts ins September and hold a public Keynote lecture on 14 September 2022.

Portrait of Sonia Boyce.
Sonia Boyce will visit Helsinki in September 2022. Photo: Sarah Weal, courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery.

Sonia Boyce (b. 1962) is an award-winning, London-based artist who came to prominence in the 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning Black Arts Movement in Britain. Through her figurative pastel drawings and photo collages, she addressed the issues of race and gender. In many ways, Boyce has been a trailblazer – for example, in 1987, she became the first Black-British female artist whose works were acquired by Tate.

Since then, collaborative and inclusive approaches and improvisation have begun to play an increasingly important role in Boyce’s practice, which consequently questions the concept of artistic authorship. In her works, people are brought together in dynamic, social situations that encourage them to speak, sing or move in relation to the past and present. Boyce’s practice incorporates performance, moving image, photography, drawings, print and sound. Her art has been characterised as being thoroughly inclusive, generous and experimental. Consistently, her works deal with the question of how people could learn to live with difference.

For nearly forty years, Boyce has worked in art schools and other academic contexts as a teacher and researcher. Her three-year research project at the University of the Arts London culminated with the BBC documentary Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History (2018), which turned the spotlight on artists with African and Asian descent who have long been overlooked in the history of British art.

Boyce will represent Britain in this year’s Venice Biennale. She is a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and she has been awarded the title of OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

Keynote lecture at Dance House Helsinki in September

During her visit, Boyce will give a Saastamoinen Keynote Lecture, which is open to the public, and meet students and alumni of Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts as well as representatives of the Finnish art community. The Keynote lecture will be held on Wednesday, 14 September 2022, at 18 at Dance House Helsinki, Kaapeliaukio 3. The lecture will be held in English.

“Boyce is a pioneer in European inclusive art. Boyce’s recent collective improvisation-based artistic practice is an encouraging example of the bold, continuously evolving forms that contemporary art can take,” says Dean of Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts Hanna Johansson.

“It is an honour and joy for us to invite an esteemed artist like Boyce to Finland and by doing so, promote an important and continuous dialogue in the local art scene,” says Marja Karttunen from the board of the Saastamoinen Foundation.

The lecture series features eminent international artists and experts

Boyce’s visit is part of the fine arts internationalisation programme launched by the Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation in 2014, which, in addition to lectures, includes international mentoring and residency activities for master’s students and alumni of the academy.

The lecture by Boyce will be the sixth Keynote lecture organised by Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation. Speakers at the annual lecture event are internationally important figures in the arts.

The series was opened in January 2016 by Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst in Munich and the curator of the 2015 Venice Biennale. In 2017, the lecture was given by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, curators of the 2017 Istanbul Biennale. In 2018, the guest lecturer was Adam Szymczyk, who has worked, for example, as the artistic director of Documenta 14. The 2019 lecture was held by Martha Rosler, a US-born pioneer in feminist art, and the 2020 lecture was given by Andrea Giunta, an esteemed expert in Latin American art and the chief curator of the Mercosul biennial in 2020.