Lynette Yiadom-Boakye


Essays and Letters

21 January - 6 March 2010

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present a solo exhibition by the painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A British artist of Ghanaian origin, she has previously showed at the gallery as part of the FOREX project series.

Yiadom-Boakye's work is richly informed by romantic traditions in Western art history, in particular artists such as Goya and Manet who used light and dark to great effect to convey the presence of their subjects. She paints portraits of people who enter her imagination, starkly positioned against dark or indistinct backgrounds. Her fictitious characters, usually black, are prompted by photographs or paintings in which she sees a representation that resonates deeply within her. She describes her subjects:

Although they are not real, I think of them as people known to me. They are imbued with a power of their own. They have a resonance - something emphatic and otherworldly. I admire them for the strength of their moral fiber. If they are pathetic, they don't survive - if I feel sorry for someone, I get rid of them. I don't like to paint victims. You don't recognize them because they have no allegiance to anywhere. (Flow catalogue)

For her solo show Yiadom-Boakye will present paintings that stand alone, following a specific manifesto devised to guide their individual creation. Most of her works are what she terms 'one-shot paintings', started and finished in a single day or bout of painting and able to be viewed, compositionally, in an instant. These works unequivocally communicate the initial manifesto and impulse behind them (although Yiadom-Boakye leaves the narrative details ambiguous). Her painting is often informed by her experiments with the written word: she writes manifestoes for her studio practice and short stories that are usually left open-ended, without conclusion. Her approach to titles offers another glimpse of her associative thought process: "Titles rarely follow any logic for me. The references are sometimes art historical, sometimes descriptive but most often the first, middle or last link in the chain of thoughts that resulted in the painting."

Yiadom-Boakye was born in 1977 in London to Ghanaian parents; she completed her postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools in 2003. Her most recent solo shows have taken place at Faye Fleming & Partner in Geneva (2007 and 2009). Group shows include Living Together: Strategies for Co-habitation at the Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and the Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo in Spain (2009); the 7th Gwangju Biennial, Korea (2008); Flow at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008); the 2nd Seville Biennial (2006-2007) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the Barbican, London (2004-2005).

She will exhibit concurrently with Steven Cohen and, as part of the FOREX series, Thomas Hirschhorn.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 21 January, 6-8pm. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.