yiadom-boakye 1pm masons yard

MYSTERIOUS AND CAPTIVATING are among the descriptors often used to label the subjects in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s remarkable portraits. Fictional figures, the men and women she paints—whether sitting, standing, reclining, gazing at a floral arrangement or nursing a cup of tea—betray no sense of time or place, and their clothing and spare surroundings don’t offer any context either. Although they lack specificity, her subjects are pensive and prideful. Traditional and formal in form, the paintings are beautiful and moody and defined by moments of bold color.

The latest edition of Porter magazine (available in print or via app) reports on British artist Yiadom-Boakye, whose exhibition “Verses After Dusk” is on view at Serpentine Gallery in London from June 2 to Sept. 13, 2015.

Noting that Yiadom-Boakye’s imaginary and composite figures are drawn from scrapbook clippings, personal memories, modern photographs and historical images, writer Rachel Campbell-Johnston marvels at the “quiet unsettling power” of her canvases.

Describing the paintings as “willfully reticent portraits” she writes that they “materialize, as if by magic, from dusky backgrounds.”

“Willfully reticent portraits,” Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings “materialize, as if by magic, from dusky backgrounds.” — Porter Magazine

Campbell-Johnston continues: “But the sense of their psychological presence is disturbing. A flashing eye or grin, an awkward posture or turned head, snags at the onlooker’s imagination. And long after you have moved away from the picture, you will find yourself wondering what their images are about.”


LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Any Number of Preoccupations,” 2010 (oil on canvas). | Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection, Courtesy of Corvi-Mora London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Yiadom-Boakye is featured in Porter magazine’s Private Views section (view PDF). The publication visits the artist at home in Streatham, not far from where she was born and raised in South London by her parents, both nurses of Ghanaian descent.

She says “I don’t think I ever made a decision to be an artist” and adds, “when I think of my childhood it’s mostly with my nose in a book.” After studying at the Royal Academy she still was uncertain about pursuing art as a career. Her back up plan—becoming an optician—proved unnecessary. In less than a decade, her practice has won over critics internationally.

“I don’t think I ever made a decision to be an artist… When I think of my childhood it’s mostly with my nose in a book.”
— Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Porter Magazine

Two years ago, Yiadom-Boakye was in the running for the Tate Museum’s Turner Prize. She is the first black female to make the shortlist, but she didn’t win, which was a satisfactory outcome as far as the artist is concerned. “I wasn’t sure I wanted the attention,” she says. “I was happy to go with the flow.”

Things have been flowing nicely for the painter who has expanded her portfolio to include curating. Last fall, Yiadom-Boakye co-curated “Civil Rights: We Have it in Our Power to Begin the World Over Again.” Featuring works by African American artists including Radcliffe Bailey, Ellen Gallagher, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall and Lorna Simpson, the exhibition explored how the black Civil Rights Movement in the United States influenced the struggle for civil rights in Derry and Northern Ireland.

For “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Selects From the V-A-C Collection,” on view at Whitechapel Gallery in London through June 14, 2015, she chose rarely seen, nature-inspired works by the likes of Peter Doig and Andy Warhol from the V-A-C Collection in Moscow.


Detail of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Jewel,” 2012 (oil on canvas) on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York in September 2012 | Photo by VIctoria L. Valentine

Perhaps borne of her early dedication to reading, Yiadom-Boakye also writes poetry and short stories.

“I came across Lynette’s powerful paintings a few years ago at the Future Generation Art Prize in Venice,” artist Damien Hirst, who won the Turner Prize in 1995, tells Campbell-Johnston. “I loved her portraits. She says she paints what she can’t write and writes what she can’t paint, and I love that.”

“[Lynette Yiadom-Boakye] says she paints what she can’t write and writes what she can’t paint, and I love that.” — Dammien Hirst, Porter Magazine

There is definitely a story behind each of Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings, but there is no fixed narrative. She prefers to leave it up to the interpretation of individual viewers.

The artist sees “painting as a non-linear narrative.” She says her portraits are about “the wider possibility of anything and everything. They are about a feeling that you can’t quite place.”

A gracious host, when the interview concludes Yiadom-Boakye sends Campbell-Johnston home with a slice of freshly baked orange cake and a tin of strawberry tea.

Porter Mag - Summer 2015PUBLISHED SIX TIMES A YEAR by the online designer retailer Net-a-Porter, Porter magazine is relatively new. Having released just nine issues, its Summer Escape 2015 edition marks a milestone. Featuring Puerto Rican model Joan Smalls on the cover, it is the first time a black woman has graced the front of the fashion magazine.

Inside, Porter also spoke to British fashion designer Duro Olowu about his view of Yiadom-Boakye’s work. He says he “fell in love” with her art after her show at the Studio Museum in Harlem (Nov. 11, 2010-March 13, 2011).

Fashion designer Duro Olowu lauds Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s technique and skill and also emphasizes the importance of her practice because of the deft manner in which she tackles issues of race, gender, beauty, politics and sexuality.

Olowu, who is married to Thelma Golden, the museum’s director and chief curator, lauds the 37-year-old artist’s technique, skill and maturity beyond her years. He also emphasizes the importance of her practice because of the deft manner in which she tackles issues of race, gender, beauty, politics and sexuality.

“Looking at Lynette’s paintings is like staring beauty in the face,” Olowu tells Porter, “and it staring back at you with confidence and grace.” CT

TOP IMAGE: Detail of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “1 pm, Masons Yard,” 2014 (oil on canvas) on view at Jack Shainman Gallery in January 2015 | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

BOOKSHELF
Published in November 2014, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” celebrates, explores and documents the British painter’s practice over the past decade. “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations” was published to coincide with her exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. A new catalog, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Verses After Dusk,” complements her current exhibition at Serpentine Gallery in London.

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Detail of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “The Courtesy of a Saint,” 2012 (oil on canvas) on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York in September 2012 | Photo by VIctoria L. Valentine

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Installation view of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Hightower,” 2008 (oil on linen) on view at “Verses After Dark.” Serpentine Gallery, London (June 2-Sept. 13, 2015) | Image © readsreads.info 2015

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Detail of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York in September 2012 | Photo by VIctoria L. Valentine

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Installation view of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “4 pm Friday,” 2015 (oil on canvas) on view at “Verses After Dark.” Serpentine Gallery, London (June 2-Sept. 13, 2015) | Image © readsreads.info 2015


Detail of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “No Mind for Memory,” 2012 (oil on canvas) on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York in September 2012 | Photo by VIctoria L. Valentine

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LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “The Front,” 2014 (oil on canvas) | Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

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Installation view of LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “An Education,” 2010 (oil on canvas) on view at “Verses After Dark.” Serpentine Gallery, London (June 2-Sept. 13, 2015) | Image © readsreads.info 2015