LYB14-1.005 The Front HR

LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE FINDS PAINTING “DIFFICULT.” Critically recognized for her moody-hued paintings of people who sprout from her imagination (above), the British artist says the challenge is a good thing. “I paint because I love doing it and because I never stop finding it difficult,” she told Frieze magazine. “I always feel like I’m trying to get to somewhere that I’ll never reach. That’s the way it should feel or else there’d be no point. I’ll keep trying to do it better, or more successfully, according to what I want from it. I’m rarely completely satisfied but that makes me more determined to carry on.”

Jennifer Higgie, co-editor of Frieze, asked eight artists why they paint and what it means to them. In addition to Yiadom-Boakye, she spoke to Ellen Altfest, Apostolos Georgiou, Imran Qureshi, Helen Johnson, Mark Sadler, Henry Taylor and Rosie Wylie.

henry taylor - bookBoth Yiadom-Boakye and Los Angeles-based Taylor explained why they prefer to be called “figurative” painters and how politics factors in their work:

On Figurative Painting
Taylor: “I like the term ‘figurative painter’ more than some of the things I’ve been called (that’s if you’re trying to label me a figurative painter). I make all types of paintings that have figures in them but the figure is behind bars or walking a pitbull or a mastiff, like in my work Walking with Vito (2008). Or, for example, I made a painting about my grandfather, Ardmore Taylor, who everyone called Mo, and who trained horses in Texas. He’s sitting on a porch with a pistol and shotgun, alluding to the lifestyle he lived as well as died: he was shot at the age of 33 in 1933. …So, I try to say a little more, i.e. I paint a figure, but often times there’s more to it. It’s like a jungle sometimes.” — Frieze

Yiadom-Boakye: “I think of painting as the means through which I present the world as I see or think or feel it: a combination of real and unreal. The fantasies, nonsenses and random associations in my head meld with the life I live and the things that happen around me. …For me, the term ‘figurative painter’ is a more accurate description than ‘portrait painter’.” — Frieze

lynette yiadom-boakye coverOn Politics
Yiadom-Boakye: “Politics plays a large role in my work, but often less in terms of subject than object, the fact of doing what you’re doing. How pretty can you afford to be? How ugly should you be? Should the pleasure ever be all yours? How ashamed are you? And who still has a good enough reason to paint? Politics of some shape or another underpin most work regardless of medium, but when one depicts the figure the questions raised will always be political.” — Frieze

Taylor: “What role does politics play in my work? Well, you talking to me? This is America and if you’re black in America it’s easy for politics to permeate your work.” — Frieze

Read 8 Painters on Painting at Frieze Magazine. | Issue 160, January/February 2015

Both artists recently published books that capture their practice and the nature of their painting. Check out “Henry Taylor” (September 2014) and “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” (November 2014). CT

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

Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.