‘I want to think about painting, not the personality of the [person] sitting with me. I’m far more interested in how we can make people intelligible through paint, rather than getting bogged down in characters ... I want the work to be pulled out of the air somehow’ (L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in Interview with Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, May 2012).
Held in the Franks-Suss Collection for eight years following its completion in 2005, Second is a compelling example of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s unique figurative practice. Carefully composed in her signature palette of velvety bronze and rich amber hues, Yiadom-Boakye’s protagonist dominates the canvas with a statuesque sense of poise. Having risen to international acclaim over the past decade, with a major solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London, last year, Yiadom-Boakye’s work employs form, colour, texture and painterly technique as tools for exploring questions of identity and representation. The characters that come to life through her brushstrokes are an agglomerate of memories, sketches and collected photographic materials, rendered intuitively and at speed. ‘I want to think about painting, not the personality of the [person] sitting with me’, she explains. ‘I’m far more interested in how we can make people intelligible through paint, rather than getting bogged down in characters … I want the work to be pulled out of the air somehow’ (L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in Interview with Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, May 2012). Through fluid expressive brushstrokes of dramatic dark tones and sharp highlights, Yiadom-Boakye weaves compelling narratives, personalities and scenarios from the depths of her imagination.
Yiadom-Boakye situates her practice within the art-historical lineage of figurative painting. She particularly admires Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and Walter Sickert: artists who challenged the conventions of anatomical representation. As the present work demonstrates, Yiadom-Boakye is less concerned with realism than she is interested making the esoteric qualities of her subjects tangible through paint. Through the darkness of her palette and the dislocation of her subjects from both time and context, the central focus of tension in Yiadom-Boakye’s canvases resides in the piercing gaze of her characters. Charting the full spectrum of human emotion, her protagonists are unambiguously empowered.