Portrait of the artist, 2018. ©

Anne Purkiss

I’m more interested in human responses than anything else. How to learn, how to listen, how to watch things and be in it; not be separate from it, not to have an arm’s length relation to what might be unfolding with other people.’ - Sonia Boyce OBE, RA

Sonia Boyce OBE RA has been commissioned by the British Council to represent the British Pavilion for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which runs until 27th November, 2022.

Boyce has enjoyed an illustrious career. She has been a key feature of the Black British art movement since the 1980s and in 1987 she was the first Black British female artist to have their work purchased by the Tate, when the museum bought her drawing Missionary Position II (1985).

Around that time, she moved from drawing to a more performative social practice and she continues to break new ground today. In 2016 she was the first Black woman to be elected to the Royal Academy and received an OBE for services to art in 2019. Her international reputation is reflected by her inclusion in Vogue magazine’s 25 most influential women of 2022.

Her contribution to the Venice Biennale has been lauded by critics. In recognition of her new ground-breaking installation, ‘Feeling Her Way’, Boyce was awarded Venice’s prestigious Golden Lion award, the first British artist to win since Richard Hamilton in 1993.

‘Feeling Her Way’ brings together videos featuring five Black female musicians, who were invited to improvise, interact and play with their voices in order to explore ‘how listening to people vocalise freedom, imagination and playfulness can lead to new possibilities for the future’.

My desire in bringing you together is to explore how you might feel free. What kind of conditions might you need to feel free to express yourself, when not constricted by what others feel you should be, or could be? What does it mean to feel free ... and how might you play?’ - Sonia Boyce OBE RA

Following La Biennale, ‘Feeling Her Way’ will be presented at Turner Contemporary, Margate in 2023, before traveling to the Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, USA in 2024 – the first time that a British Pavilion exhibition has been presented outside Venice and the UK.

To coincide with the exhibition, Sonia’s team have kindly selected some of the music featured in the exhibition to create a playlist. You can listen to the ‘Feeling Her Way’ Spotify playlist here.