A few years ago, Amber Boardman came across a New York Times article that described an emerging phenomenon many of us are now familiar with: decision fatigue. For Boardman, it acutely described “how all the decisions we make sap our willpower and we can only make a certain number of decisions in a day.” Contemporary, digital life bombards us with decisions, to the point where the insignificant seems overwhelming.
Over the last 12 months Boardman has been creating large-scale paintings that look at how decision fatigue and the internet is shaping our lives and interactions. “I’ve been interested in the internet in my practice for many years,” she explains. “I think about virtual crowds and physical crowds, and the differences and similarities between them. I increasingly feel like the social norms that take place on the internet are changing how people behave in person.”
Yet there was a formal difficulty in this, with Boardman asking herself, “How can painting represent what’s happening online in ways that are unique?” In answer, the artist draws upon a realist style she calls “cartoonish figuration”, lightly melding her animation background and painting practice. This results in works like Movie Night, 2020, which obliquely reference Boardman and her partner arguing over what to watch on Netflix, while also acknowledging how such a disagreement is at once energy-sapping as much as it’s a sign of privilege.
The aim isn’t to be didactic, but to give recognition to this aspect of people’s lives. “The show is called Decision Fatigue, so that’s not subtle,” she says. “But I think solidarity is the main thing. I want people to feel seen. To look at the paintings and go, ‘I get that.’”
This article was originally published in the January/February 2021 print edition of Art Guide Australia.