Lee Boyd is an emerging artist living and working in Bangor, Northern Ireland. He studied ceramics at the University of Ulster in Ireland and has experience in drawing, painting, and sculpting. He is best known for his Manimal series of graphite drawings, in which he blends human and animal forms to create surreal portraits. These works are informed by his interest in the psychology of personality and the role animals have often played in our stories and metaphors. By juxtaposing the human and animal figure, he explores the complexities of our ever-changing behaviors and interactions with our environment.
Lee was named a finalist for the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year in 2008 and has been featured on the BBC2 television program Show Me the Money, which led to an exclusive exhibition at the Royal College of Art in London. Lee has exhibited his works extensively, most recently at Scope Miami and the Project 24 Bangor Museum.
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
The psychology of people and personality has always been an important aspect to the range of my portraiture work called “Manimal.” There is an expansive historical context of merging animal and human form, from mythology to modern culture. We have adopted the surreal combination as a way of describing people and highlighting certain attributes. We use it in our language to describe attitudes, for example “as sly as a fox” and “male chauvinist pig.”
I researched through many cultures and found that we use animals in many ways to tell stories to inspire, teach, and warn. I mix this with how our modern cultures and the individuals within them interact and behave, the psychology of which is a nuance of personality, and why we react and commit to stereotypical roles within our society. I observe personality and interaction, which creates questions that I try to find a personal response to by blending the human form with an animal, which, to me, fulfils the allegorical story of the work.
We never have the same personality all the time. We behave differently due to our location, scenario, and place. For example, we might appear solitary and moody in the morning before the first coffee, be efficient, focused, and task driven at work and, at the end of the day, love the comfort of family and friends around us in the comfort of home. We may be the same person, but the complexities of our individual interactions are a never-ending source of inspiration.
I have a multi-faceted background in art, but I have gravitated towards graphite as a medium because of its simplicity and vast range of mark making effects. Everyone has an experience of using a pencil, which allows for a wider audience to identify the medium of the work. The monochromatic nature gives an option to the individual to project color. This is something that resonates in my own experience of watching old films and remembering them in color.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
A tutor’s simple word. I didn’t understand at the time but have over many years let it guide me. Observe and understand what, how, and why you are seeing/thinking. Then as one creates, look to see if the idea has come through to your work with the same integrity and honesty. See your work and let it guide you to improve, refine, and develop.
Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I love the sounds of other things going on as I work, from radio, music, film, and documentaries to the sound of a snoring, sleeping cat. The backdrop of noise allows my mind to rest at times and refocus at others. I find the monotony of silence deafening if all I can hear are my own thoughts on constant flow.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci. To me, the work is a call to learn, observe, understand, and express.
Who are your favorite writers?
Edgar Allan Poe, E.E.. Cummings, Alain de Botton, and a million other references in books that have gifted knowledge to me over the years and continue to guide an enquiring mind.