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Tu vas me faire rougir (You're going to make me blush)

Tu vas me faire rougir (You're going to make me blush)
signed, titled and dated 'Flora Yukhnovich 2017 Tu vas me faire rougir' (on the overlap)
oil on linen
84 5⁄8 x 70 7⁄8in. (215 x 180cm.)
Painted in 2017
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2017.
Flora Yukhnovich: Sweet Spot, exh. cat., London, Parafin, 2019 (illustrated in colour, p. 66).
London, City & Guilds of London Art School, MA Fine Art Show, 2017.
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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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Tu vas me faire rougir (Youre going to make me blush) (2017) is a spectacular example of the monumental reimaginings of Rococo painting that have propelled Flora Yukhnovich to worldwide acclaim. More than two metres in height, the work was included in the artist’s MA degree show at the City and Guilds of London Art School in 2017, and sees her practice arrive fully formed. It has remained in the same private collection since. The composition is derived from Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (c. 1767): the most famous among the many Rococo masterpieces on display in London’s Wallace Collection, where Yukhnovich is a regular visitor. Set amid a forest grove, Fragonard’s work depicts a young woman bedecked in frothy pink and white silks, kicking off her shoe as she is propelled on a swing by a man behind her. The eyes of a second man in the undergrowth light up as he catches a glimpse beneath her skirts. She meets his gaze with a flirtatious smile. In Yukhnovich’s vision—which flips the original horizontally, creating a mirror image—the woman is transformed into a profusion of billowing, fleshy brushstrokes. Her splendid pastel pinks churn against the background’s teal and malachite hues, restaging Fragonard’s distinctive palette in a tumult of lush, marbled abstraction. Branches and leaves become washes of ochre and phthalo green, raining liquid tracks down the canvas; playful smears of light and dark pigment melt together like sunlight and woodland shade. As the girl blossoms into free-floating licks of floral colour, Fragonard’s two male protagonists are nowhere to be seen.

‘Fragonard has remained an extremely important artist for me’, Yukhnovich explains, ‘because of the painterly qualities in his work. For example, if you were to somehow empty The Swing of its literal meaning, I think it would still have the same erotic and fleshy implications because the touch of his brush so sensitively mirrors the meaning of the work’ (F. Yukhnovich, quoted in L. Figes, ‘Rethinking the Rococo: painter Flora Yukhnovich adds a contemporary twist’, Art UK, 19 March 2020). Yukhnovich’s approach is defined by this haptic conversation between form and content, feeling and narrative. She thoroughly anatomises the pictures she works from, digitally manipulating photographs of them in order to plan her mark-making, as well as employing more frenetic brushwork. Her paintings—often blown up to huge scale from much smaller sources, as in the present example—can take several weeks to complete. Reflecting the legacy of Cecily Brown, Tu vas me faire rougir is born of a rich understanding of paint’s ambiguous, sensational surface as well as its capacity for story-telling.

The recently completed restoration of The Swing has revealed even greater depths to Fragonard’s achievement, and re-illuminated his relevance for a contemporary audience. Yukhnovich herself sees Rococo echoes in the image-saturated, celebrity-obsessed media culture of today: she enjoys exploring an artistic moment that is often regarded as ‘low-brow’, with its indulgent opulence, eroticism and bawdy fantasy taken to near-vulgar extremes. At the same time, she sets out to trouble the Rococo’s depictions of women as objects of conquest, instead asserting paint as a mode of exploring more fluid forms of contemporary sensuality. As foregrounded by the mirror-flip of the present work, her medium is ripe with opportunities to surprise and subvert the past and present alike. In Tu vas me faire rougir, Yukhnovich derives lavish, tactile power from elements that might have been viewed as merely ‘decorative’ or ‘artificial’ in their original context, and abstracts Fragonard’s erotic vignette into a realm of glorious possibility. The work pulses with life, and its colours explode in a splendour of painterly joy.

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