Foreword kindly written by Virginia Bodman former head of art at Sunderland university

David Boyd: Ways to Tell Stories

David is a great storyteller; his stories, whether told in person or through his paintings, are always underpinned by his considerable empathy for the people he talks about and the places that have made them.

His unpeopled landscapes allow the viewer to root their own narratives in Cumbria’s powerful beauty. David’s observations on how the weather and light affects, engulfs and transforms these vast spaces and massive natural forms allow the viewer to share his sense of wonder, his mood and his dreams and to join their stories to his.

Stories when told often have a linear narrative arc, a beginning, middle and end. Paintings work differently — they are full-on, a simultaneous and sensuous experience demanding an immediate and sometimes physical response: astonishment, delight, pleasure. Paintings also persist in the memory and demand a longer-term and repeat pattern of engagement that allows for an unravelling and a putting back together.

Paintings tell us their stories in a number of highly integrated ways, through image, colour, tone, touch, scale and through the choice and use of materials; through abstract structures as well as clearly depicted detail. Artists, through the making process, have to find pictorial spaces and forms that allow all these elements to coalesce and to tell their part of an often complex story.  ‘Find’ is the key word here; there are no way-marked paths for a singular artist such as David to follow. His is a journey driven by a need to tell stories that no one else can tell, and has all the disappointments and pleasures, practical and philosophical, that such journeys incur.

David’s figurative paintings are not peopled or ‘staffed’ in the Romantic sense, to give scale to the immensity of the landscape. His paintings allow us to see and experience an integration of the figure and the land that reveals that people and place are often indivisible. These are paintings about real people, people who are part of the landscape in which they live and who are also part of David’s life. Their experiences are his experiences; they share a history and a relationship with the land and understand each other in ways that go deep below the surface. Cumbria as we know it today is the result of millions of years of geological activity. The final form of a painting too is often the result of turmoil, upheaval, changes of mind, re-working, experiment and discovery. Finding ways through painting to tell stories honestly and to give them form requires persistence, imagination, skill and, most importantly of all, something to say that is truly heartfelt.

Craille Maguire Gillies, writing about Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Faraway Nearby, says: “A false story can harm, a truthful one can illuminate. A story told well can help us understand ourselves and the world”, and this is what David Boyd’s paintings and drawings do so magnificently. They will also allow us to retrieve the present in the future, and make the past present. His paintings make his stories visible and lasting, allowing them to stretch across time and place for audiences now and in the future.”

Virginia Bodman, 2017