Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, ‘The Separate’, 2011, Phillips
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, ‘The Separate’, 2011, Phillips

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From the Catalogue:
Painted in 2011, The Separate is a strikingly potent affirmation of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s stylistic and technical achievements as a portrait painter. In the present work, the celebrated artist has drawn subject matter from her recollections and memory to masterfully produce a characterful study of a fictional figure that exists outside of time and space. Throughout her oeuvre, Yiadom-Boakye has developed a series of works with a distinct painterly aesthetic, drawing upon a deep and sumptuous colour palette, as exemplified in The Separate. The artist’s mastery of various painterly techniques converges with her nuanced re-examination of the tradition of portraiture, forming a new and progressive visual language.

In The Separate, the sole figure reclines, smiling upon the grassy banks above the blurred coastal seascape. Having worked from life models whilst studying at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Yiadom-Boakye went on to reject this traditional form of study. Departing from established techniques associated with portraiture, the artist began relying on her own imagination to formulate her compositions. Presented here is a fictional female figure set within an unknown landscape, a carefully ambiguous cipher of her imagination. The title of the work is equally unclear, proving a lyrical accompaniment to the work; ‘the separate’ is applicable to both figure or setting and with no other clues as to the circumstances, the viewer is left to complete the story in his or her own mind. The actions of the protagonists in Yiadom-Boakye paintings regularly undertake quotidian actions. Whether they are walking to work, having a cup of coffee, going for a swim, relaxing, or taking a moment of reflection, their stances and everyday activities are more leisurely than bold. The momentary scenarios appear unfixed to any definitive associations and present themselves to us in a transitory snapshot.

The genius behind Yiadom-Boakye’s compositional technique is the spontaneous painterly improvisation which she applies to the entirety of her work. The artist is renowned for completing her canvases within a limited time frame, often in a day, to best capture a single moment or stream of consciousness. She refrains from creating or relying on preliminary sketches, instead proficiently improvising on the canvas. This technique reveals fluid, expressive brushstrokes that define the figure and surroundings. Both reflecting on and challenging the preceding art historical canon, the artist seeks to define a new painterly syntax through her own technical experimentations with language and painting as a medium.

Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits feature a predominantly black cast of characters. As discussed with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artist explained, ‘Race is something that I can completely manipulate, or reinvent, or use as I want to. Also, they’re all black because...I’m not white.’ (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Lynette Yiadom-Boakye interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist,’ Kaleidoscope, no. 15, 2012, p. 102). The artist’s paintings are not solely concerned with simply inserting the black figure into an overwhelmingly white canon, but provide a much deeper and intricate survey of the human state. As Yiadom-Boakye maintains: ‘People are tempted to politicize the fact that I paint black figures, and the complexity of this is an essential part of the work. But my starting point is always the language of painting itself and how that relates to the subject matter.’ (Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Lynette Yiadom-Boakye interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist,’ Kaleidoscope, no. 15, 2012, p. 102)

The brilliance of Yiadom-Boakye’s work has been widely acknowledged; the artist’s work was presented within the 2013 Venice Biennale, short-listed for the 2013 Turner Prize, and celebrated in solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London, the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and the Kunsthalle, Basel and most recently at the New Museum, New York. The present lot demonstrates the capability of the artist’s evocative imagination and fast paced enigmatic working process, invoking drama and vitality into her exquisite canvasses.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'LYB 2011 "The Separate"' on the reverse

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)

About Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lauded painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye assembles images from scrapbooks, drawings, and her imagination into lush compositions of human figures. The recipient of the Future Generation Art Prize and selected for the 55th Venice Biennale, she is equally focused on the history of painting, the material qualities of oil on canvas, and her particular subject matter. Working rapidly and intuitively, she often completes a composition in a day. The figures in her paintings are mostly black men and women, isolated against dark backgrounds. These fictional figures have elicited strong responses from viewers, as Yiadom-Boakye describes: “People are tempted to politicize the fact that I paint black figures, and the complexity of this is an essential part of the work. But my starting point is always the language of painting itself and how that relates to the subject matter.”

British, b. 1977, London, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom