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oil on linen
15 3/4 x 12in. (40 x 30.5cm.)
Painted in 2019
Victoria Miro, Venice.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2020.
Victoria Miro on Vortic, Flora Yukhnovich: The Venice Paintings, 2020.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Rendered in a lush palette of fleshy pinks and celestial blues, marbled with hues of deep indigo and maroon, Untitled (2019) is an enigmatic example of Flora Yukhnovich’s contemporary reimagination of the Rococo. At once delicate and dramatic, a balance achieved by combining pale flushes of colour with bold, gestural brushstrokes, the work evokes the rhythmic sensuality which lies at the core of her practice. Its swatches of nude recall the protagonists of eighteenth-century Italian frescos, suggesting figure and silhouette: at the same time the painting dissolves into formlessness, presenting us with a myriad of pure colour and texture. Here, brushstrokes function as contextual cues, directing our focus across the canvas to create a ‘language which sits between figuration and abstraction’ (F. Yukhnovich, quoted in Victoria Miro, ‘Announcing representation of Flora Yukhnovich’, 19 January 2021). Indeed, Untitled is a work which delights in the indulgence of paint, expanding its capacity for storytelling into a realm of glorious possibility.

This work belongs to an elaborate suite of paintings that Yukhnovich created during a two month stay in Venice in 2019. Inspired by the music of Antonio Vivaldi, the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova, and most significantly, the frescos adorning the ceilings of the Ca’ Rezzonico and Chiesa Santa Maria della Visitazione by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Yukhnovich created a suite of oil paintings which are distinctively Venetian in their manner. Of particular interest was Tiepolo’s allegorical Marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico and Faustina Savorgnan (1757), which depicts a couple carried by Apollo’s horse-drawn chariot, surrounded by Cupid, the Three Graces and a lion, the symbol of Venice. In Untitled, the influence of Tiepolo’s imagery is clear, particularly amongst the forms in the lower left corner which, whilst not explicit, appear to bear wings. ‘This series of paintings began as full ceilings by Tiepolo or followers of Tiepolo,‘ Yukhnovich says, ‘but departed from the sources quite quickly. They were more about trying to find a sort of “Tiepolo code”, thinking about movement and punctuating space, and how single marks could take on the attitude of a whole passage in one of the frescos’ (F. Yukhnovich, quoted in Victoria Miro, Artworks: Flora Yukhnovich, Untitled, 2019).

Yukhnovich’s rich, sensual surfaces take up the heritage of great female painters including the Abstract Expressionists Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, and most significantly, Cecily Brown, who likewise melds figurative hints into maelstroms of abstract brushwork. Indeed, by refusing to depict specific subjects, Yukhnovich enfolds a feminist perspective into her work: she presents us with a composition in which Tiepolo’s protagonists, particularly his idealised female nudes, are nowhere to be seen. ‘I do use abstraction as a way to resist objectification,’ she has said of her subversion of the male gaze. ‘I borrow a lot of nude female figures from Rococo paintings. In my work, I want to recentre the imagination on something more to do with their sensual experience in an empathetic way, rather than coolly surveying their shape’ (F. Yukhnovich quoted in ‘Through the Language of the Rococo: In Conversation with Flora Yukhnovich’, The Courtauld Online, Immediations no. 17, 2020).

After graduating from her MA at the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017, Yukhnovich has participated in a range of prestigious national and international solo exhibitions, including at GASK, Czech Republic in 2018, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings in 2019 and Leeds Arts University in 2020. In 2018, she showcased her work alongside Katie Dunn and Antonia Showering in The Great Women Artists Residency at the Palazzo Monti, Brescia. Her work is also in the collections of the Government Art Collection and The David Roberts Art Foundation. In July 2022, she participated in a survey exhibition titled Impressionism: A World View at The Nassau County Museum of Art, New York. In 2023, Yukhnovich will be the first artist to take part in Ashmolean NOW, a series of exhibitions which will respond to the collections of the Ashmolean, Oxford.

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