Daisy Boman's Bo-men march on Yorkshire

Daisy Boman's Bo-men march on Yorkshire

Daisy Boman is known worldwide for her ‘Bo-men’ – sturdy, square-headed people symbolising man’s essential oneness with each other and ever-hopeful determination to overcome life’s struggles.

They range from tiny figures hanging from a necklace to the monumental public artwork known as The Antwerp Whisperer.

These five giant figures near Antwerp’s Museum aan de Stroom, in the  Eilandje district, combine traditional sculpture with very new technology: those wishing to interact with them can download an app, record a message, and then give the visitor to the city a code which enables them to hear their private message delivered by the highest figure: the Whisperer himself.

Daisy Boman and Michelle Power of Artmarket in Geel Belgium

Space, of course, dictates that the pieces in the Artmarket gallery are necessarily rather more small scale than the giant Whisperer – but they’re no less powerful in their depiction of humanity and compassion.

“I think they speak for themselves, and are very easy to understand,” says the delightful Daisy, on the phone from her studio in Geel, in the province of Antwerp.

“They are about humanity, survival, and the joy of life. They are on different levels, as we all have a little bit of a struggle to get to the next level of our lives, and sometimes get on top of each other a little.”

And those square heads? “I think we are all born with round heads,” she laughs. “And then life throws things at us – society, religion – which makes our heads square!”

Such is the charm of both Daisy herself and her art, that it’s easy to forget that her pieces were originally inspired by a serious and deeply-felt personal crusade: her wish to remind people that we are all equal under the skin.

She lived in South Africa in the early 1980s when her architect husband’s work took the family there, and was appalled by the violent discrimination and inequality caused by the racial segregation of the Apartheid regime at the time.

Already a trained artist – she’d studied art at the Sissa school in Antwerp and the Academy of Fine Arts in Mol – she undertook a ceramic art course in Johannesburg, and exhibited widely in South Africa. 

Daisy Boman and Michelle Power of Artmarket in Geel Belgium

On the family’s return to Belgium, in 1987, she created the ‘Bo-mannetje’ (‘mannetje’ being Belgian Dutch for ‘little man’), later shortened to Bo-men.
Featureless clay figures lacking any indication of gender, age or race, they suggest a universal desire for oneness and belonging.

The egalitarian figures soon caught the attention of the wider art world – Daisy exhibited at London’s Halcyon and New Bond Street galleries, and respected British art critic Estelle Lovatt praised their ‘primitive and rough’ forms, saying they were ‘raw in their natural state. Stripped back, so as to illustrate man’s equality and stability, each fits into a shared cast with shared objectives’.

Belgian curator Germain de Meurisse, one of Daisy’s mentors, considers her work to be:  “A balance of the playful and dramatic, and as conversational banter about the joys of life, imagination, sober observation and purposelessness.”

The Artmarket gallery has recently added five new pieces to its collection of Daisy’s work – by their nature, all originals – the wall sculptures Next Level,
Arriving Home, Imagine and Are You Moving, and the free-standing piece,
Bo-men On Stone.

The title of one of Daisy’s other Bo-Men pieces is Hanging Around, but that’s one thing her work tends not to do at the Artmarket gallery – grab it while you can!
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