Frank Boyle and the art of solitude

I first met Frank when I just moved to Sydney in 2002. We met at the yoga studio in Williams street and remained in touch ever since. Frank was a painter, whose moody evocative landscapes resonated with me. Life has taken us on different paths, and although we don’t see each other often these days, I still follow Frank in his personal and artistic endeavours. And my, what endeavours they were! Frank got married, lived and painted in India and moved to the Blue Mountains. And he’s grown to be an accomplished artist represented today by two well-known galleries.

My admiration for creatives are well-known, and painters hold a special place in my heart. I chat to Frank about his life, his art and embracing the solitude.

Tell me a bit about yourself. What is your background?

I’m originally from Scotland. I was born in 1960, came to Australia in 1982 and worked in the sheet metal industry for over 30 years.

I know you don’t like to call yourself an artist. How do you describe yourself then and what you do?

For a long time, I didn’t consider myself to be an ‘artist’. I tend to call myself a visual artist if anyone asks but I prefer to think of myself as a painter. It wasn’t until I was in my mid to late 40’s, a few years after I felt I’d started to develop my own language, that I had the confidence to think of myself as an ‘artist’.

When did you start painting?

I took some evening classes in 1996 when I was in my mid 30’s but when I was at Sydney’s National Art School from 1998-2000 I became a lot more serious about painting and decided that I wanted to pursue it as a career.

How did painting influence your life? Is it a blessing or a curse?

Painting, or art in general, has definitely had a positive influence on my life. It really has given my life purpose and meaning and certainly nothing other than personal relationships gives me more enjoyment. Of course, not every piece of artwork produced will be fun but there’s an important learning process that takes place and the frustration that often happens if a painting just isn’t working, becomes a part of that process. On a practical level I see the physical world in a different way. I look at things more intensely, investigate shapes and forms, the relationships between objects, the negative space between and around them. I look at the colour of some object, any object and try to decide what other colours I’d mix to get the colour I’m looking at.

Do your paintings reflect who you are?

I like to think that they do.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the work of other artists, and situations that evoke a sense of solitude, isolation and mystery. Friedrich’s ‘Monk by the Sea’ sparked a reaction that kept me busy painting horizons for quite a few years! I’m also inspired by the many aspects of India where I’ve lived and been a regular visitor over the past 12 years.

What is the main challenge you face when beginning a painting?

Getting out of my own way and allowing the process to happen. Usually, this challenge is present for the duration of the work!

At what point in the process of the painting do you begin to feel like the painting is almost completed?

I often feel that a painting is almost completed! Then I look at it with ‘fresh eyes’, maybe the next day and wonder ‘what was I thinking?!’ it’s difficult to come to a place where I’m satisfied that a painting is almost completed and harder still to decide that the job is done.

Do you have a favourite painting of yours? Why?

I have a few. They’re usually paintings that happen spontaneously, organically and quickly. Having said that, I’ve never made a painting that I wouldn’t part with!

When I met you all these years ago, I was struck by the feeling of isolation and almost abandonment of your landscapes. Are you a lonely person?

I’m not a lonely person but I do enjoy and prefer my own company. I don’t like crowds or big gatherings of people which seems odd given my love of India.

Have you evolved as a painter? Is it a constant process?

I think so. I’m constantly trying to move forward in terms of my skills through practice and experience and like to challenge myself, challenge my fears of failure and rejection, and being cautious by nature, that can be difficult. I always start off with good intentions but occasionally old habits creep in, I stay safe and end up feeling flat with a painting that needs to be put aside and reworked later. So, yes, it is a constant process of challenges and overcoming self-doubt to end up with paintings that I feel proud of.

You lived and painted in India. What was it like?

The most amazing country I’ve ever visited and lived in. However, I found it almost impossible to paint outdoors; too many people, too much dirt and dust, and too much noise.

How did India influence you as a painter and a person? Did it change you in any way?

As a painter it certainly gave me a greater appreciation for colour and the courage to use it. As a person it gave me a greater appreciation for what I have and the opportunities available living in a country like Australia.

Many people talk about their time in India as “surviving India”. Do you agree?

That’s not my experience but I do know what people mean when they say it. India’s definitely not for everyone. The poverty and the unpleasant conditions that so many have to endure is certainly there for all to see and it’s very confronting. But if you can get past that you can see what an amazing place India is and how beautiful the people are!

India is loud and chaotic, an explosion of colour, smells, sights, noise and people. But your paintings of India are never of chaos. They depict solitary figures seemingly caught in a moment of contemplation. Why is that? What did you try to say?

It’s no secret that India is a busy and chaotic place not to mention the religious and spiritual culture. I observed so many people minding their own business, going about their lives seemingly oblivious to the chaos around them and it occurred to me that there was an element of solitude and I decided to create something of a paradox by placing a solitary figure in an ethereal landscape.

What is in the future for you? Are there any upcoming exhibitions?

I’ll keep painting till I drop! For the time being I’ll continue to work towards more exhibitions, none in pipeline but hopefully there will be sooner or later. I’m now represented by Studio Gallery Group so watch this space.

Describe yourself in one word? Why is this word?

Curious. Because I am!

What are the three things that never fail to bring you pleasure?

Selling a painting, being in India with my wife Trace, chocolate! Not necessarily in that order!


What is one thing people don’t know about you?

It’s a secret, and if I tell you it won’t be a secret anymore!

If you wish to find out more about Frank and his art, visit his website and follow him on Instagram at @frankboyleart

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