The choice of the word “illumination” rather than “illustration” in the title of the collaboration between Shary Boyle and Emily Duke was deliberate. The idea was not only to evoke the medieval practice of illuminating texts with ornate decorations, but to stress the idea of words and pictures shedding light on each other, rather than images simply depicting concepts from a story.
“This project is about the mutual illustration of text and image,” Duke said at the opening of “The Illuminations Project” at ICA. Boyle added, “To go back and forth between words and images is enhancing and filling and underscoring and enlarging in a way that one of those forms alone can’t manage.”
The 15 diptychs of texts and images on display in the ICA’s Project Space are culled from a larger set of 33 pieces created over eight years by the Canadian artists. Each would send the other their latest installment — Boyle painting and Duke writing — and in turn one would interpret the work of the other.
The results blend children’s fantasy with primal violence, several featuring the sexually charged fairy tale of characters called Peg-Leg and Bloodie. “There’s a lot of fierceness, tenderness, anger and humor,” Boyle said. “It’s vulnerable because it’s quite raw.”