Sonia Boyce

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Sonia Dawn Boyce, MBE (born in 1962), is a British Afro-Caribbean artist, living and working in London. She is Professor at Middlesex University[1] and Professor of Black Art and Design at University of the Arts London.[2]


Born in London, Sonia Boyce studied at Stourbridge College in the West Midlands. She works across a range of media including photography, installation and text.[3] She came to prominence as part of the Black British cultural renaissance of the 1980s.[4] Her work also references feminism.[5] Ron Exley (2001) has written: "The effect of her work has been to re-orientate and re-negotiate the position of Black or Afro-Caribbean art within the cultural mainstream."[6]

An early exhibition was in 1983 at the Africa Centre London entitled "Five Black Women". Boyce's early works were large chalk-and-pastel drawings depicting friends, family and childhood experiences. In them she often included depictions of wallpaper patterns and bright colours associated with the Caribbean and experienced through her own particular background. It has been suggested that through this work the artist examined her position as a black woman in Britain and the historical events in which that experience was rooted.[7]

In her later works Boyce used diverse media including digital photography to produce composite images depicting contemporary black life. Although her focus is seen to have shifted away from specific ethnic experiences, her themes continue to be the experiences of a black woman living in a white society, and how religion, politics and sexual politics made up that experience.[7]

Boyce's works are held in the collection of Tate Modern.[8]

She has taught widely and uses workshops as part of her creative process, and her works can be seen in many national collections.[9]

Sonia Boyce was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2007, for services to art.[10]


In her early artistic years Boyce used chalk and pastel to make drawings of her friends, family and herself. Boyce graduated later to incorporate photography, graphic design, film and caricature to convey very political messages within her work. The incorporation of collage in her work allowed her to create complicated and interesting pieces. It is important to note Boyce’s utilization of caricature within her work. The caricature is historically meant to showcase exaggerated features of individuals. By using caricatures, which are often grotesque and incite negative perceptions of their subjects, Boyce allows herself to reclaim them in her own image.[11]


Sonia Boyce’s work is vastly politically affiliated. She utilizes a variety of mediums within the same work to convey messages revolving around black representation, perceptions of the black body and pervasive notions that arose from colonial pseudoscience. Within her bodies of work Boyce wishes to convey the personal isolation that results from being black in a white supremist society. In her work she explores notions of the Black Body as the "other". Commonly, she uses collage to convey a body of art that incites a complicated history. One that is untold and important. Boyce rose as a prominent artist in the 1980s when the Black Cultural Renaissance took place in the United Kingdom. The movement arose out of Margaret Thatcher’s conservatism and also noch Powell’s racism. Using this societal backdrop, Boyce takes conventional English narrative surrounding the black body and turns it upside down. Through her art she conveys a hope to overturn ethnographic notions of race that pervaded throughout slavery and after the slaves had been emancipated.[11]


  • "Century City: art and culture in the modern metropolis", Tate Modern, London (2001)
  • "Recent Sonia Boyce: la, la, la", Reed College, Portland – Oregon (2001)
  • "Sharjah International Bienal 7", Sharjah (2005)
  • "Devotional", National Portrait Gallery, London (2007)
  • "For you, only you" (ed. Paul Bonaventura, Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, Oxford University and tour, 2007/2008)[12]
  • "Crop Over", Harewood House, Leeds and Barbados Museum & Historical Society (2007/2008)
  • "Like Love – Part One", Spike Island, Bristol and tour (2009–2010)[13]"Part 2 and Part 3" (2009–2010)
  • "Praxis: Art in Times of Uncertainty", Thessaloniki Biennal 2, Greece (2009)
  • "Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic", Tate Liverpool and tour (2010)
  • "Black Sound White Cube", Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin (2011)
  • "8+8 Contemporary International Video Art", 53 Museum, Quangzhou (2011); "The Impossible Community", Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2011);
  • "Migrations: Journeys into British Art", Tate Britain (2012)
  • "There is no archive in which nothing gets lost", Museum of Fine Art Houston (2012)
  • "Keywords", Rivington Place, London (2013).


  • Sonia Boyce: Speaking in Tongues (Gilane Tawadros, Kala Press, 1997)
  • Annotations 2/Sonia Boyce: Performance (ed. Mark Crinson, Iniva – the Institute of International Visual Arts, 1998)
  • In 2007, Boyce, David A. Bailey and Ian Baucom jointly received the History of British Art Book Prize (USA) for the edited volume Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain, published by Duke University Press in collaboration with Iniva and AAVAA.
  • Like Love (Sonia Boyce, published by The Green Box, 2010)[14]

Research positions[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Sonia Boyce (exhibition catalogue, intro P. Ntuli; London, Air Gallery, 1987) [texts by Boyce]
  • The Impossible Self (exhibition catalogue by B. Ferguson, S. Nairne, S. Boyce and others, Winnipeg, A.G., 1988)
  • M. Corris: "Sonia Boyce at Vanessa Devereux Gallery", Artforum, xxx (1992), p. 124
  • G. Tawadros, Sonia Boyce: Speaking in Tongues (London, 1997)
  • Recent Sonia Boyce: La, La, La (exhibition catalogue by S. Fillin-Yeh and M. Verhagen; Portland, OR, Reed Coll, Cooley A.G.; 2001)
  • David A. Bailey, Kobena Mercer, Catherine Ugwu (eds), MIRAGE: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire, ICA, 1995.[17]
  • M. Crinson (ed.): Sonya Boyce: Performance, Institute of International Visual Arts in Collaboration with Cornerhouse (London, 1998)[18]


  1. ^ "Prof Sonia Boyce - Professor in Fine Arts - ADRI". 
  2. ^ "UAL appoints nine new cross-university heads". Design Week. 
  3. ^ Rebecca Fortnum, Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words, I.B.Tauris, 2007, p. 113. ISBN 1-84511-224-5
  4. ^ Kwesi Owusu, Black British Culture and Society: A Text-Reader, Routledge, 1999, p. 4. ISBN 0-415-17846-0
  5. ^ Peggy Phelan and Helena Reckitt, Art and Feminism. London: Phaidon, 2001.
  6. ^ Exley, Ron. "Sonia Boyce Artists Talking". a-n The Artists Information Company. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Oxford Art Online,
  8. ^ Sonia Boyce "Artist biography", Tate online.
  9. ^ Crinson, Mark (1998). Sonia Boyce: Performance. London: Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA). ISBN 1 899846 15 8. 
  10. ^ BBC News, accessed 6 September 2007.
  11. ^ a b Noel, Samantha (March 28, 2014). "Putting on a Bold-Face". Third Text 28 (2): 163–176. doi:10.1080/09528822.2014.890789. 
  12. ^ "For you, only you – Ruskin School of Art (exhibition page)". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Spike Island". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Boyce, Sonia (2010). Like Love. The Green Box. ISBN 9783941644168. 
  15. ^ Boyce, Sonia. "Art and Design Research Institute". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "TransNational Member Page". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Various (1995). Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference & Desire. London: ICA. ISBN 0 905263 84 7. 
  18. ^ Crinson, Mark (1998). Sonia Boyce: Performance. INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL VISUAL ARTS (INIVA). ISBN 1899846158.