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Of All The Seasons

Of All The Seasons
signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'LYB 2017 Of All The Seasons' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
43 3⁄8 x 23 7⁄8in. (110.2 x 60.6cm.)
Painted in 2017
Corvi-Mora, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017.
Z. Smith, ‘Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Imaginary Portraits’, in The New Yorker, 12 June 2017 (illustrated in colour, digital).
J. Parham, ‘Considering Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Borderless Bodies’, in Fader, 10 May 2017 (illustrated in colour, digital).
P. Kennicott, ‘An artist who summons black faces and bodies at ease in the world’, in The Washington Post, 3 August 2017 (digital).
L. Rawley, ‘This Artist Reclaims Black Lives in Classical Paintings’, in The Cut, 9 May 2017 (illustrated in colour, digital).
New York, New Museum, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-song for a Cipher, 2017.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Unveiled in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s landmark solo exhibition at the New Museum, New York in 2017, Of All The Seasons is an arresting work from a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. A woman sits cross-legged against a backdrop of verdant greens and blues, her hands raised to her hair. Her arms and legs are cropped at the edge of the picture plane; her eyes, full of complex emotion, are trained on something out of sight. Time, place and narrative are held in tantalising suspense. Yiadom-Boakye’s brushwork quivers with movement, layered in fluid streaks of colour and punctuated with dazzling glints of white, red and yellow. Her exhibition at the New Museum, following swiftly on the heels of important presentations at the Serpentine Gallery, London and the Kunsthalle Basel, marked her solo debut in a major US institution. The show was reviewed in The New Yorker by author Zadie Smith, who hailed the artist’s enigmatic portraits of imaginary subjects. Alive with half-told stories, the present work captures the moment that Yiadom-Boakye began to take her place on the international stage.

Recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Tate Britain, London, as well as a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao last year, Yiadom-Boakye is widely regarded as one of the finest figurative painters of her generation. Her practice is one of portraiture, yet her subjects are far from sitters in the traditional sense. Instead, they are figments of the artist’s psyche, whose forms take shape through the very act of putting brush to canvas. They are nourished by art history, music and literature: their compositions often evoke memories of the Old Masters or the Post-Impressionists, while their curious titles resemble lines of poetry or song, plucked from the artist’s own synaesthetic archive. Yiadom-Boakye is a writer as well as a painter, and her canvases often confront the viewer like unfinished chapters, or characters in the process of formation. In Of All The Seasons, a conversation seems about to begin: the protagonist’s companion is unseen and unheard, but their presence is unmistakable.

Yiadom-Boakye places black subjects at the core of her practice. Deliberately divorced from any particular setting or time period, her paintings have been seen as attempts to address questions of black representation in the Western canon: her subjects inhabit worlds that might have once been the domain of Vermeer, Velázquez, Degas or Manet. Yet, as Smith points out in her essay, ‘Yiadom-Boakye is doing more than exploring the supposedly uncharted territory of black selfhood … Nor are these paintings solely concerned with inserting the black figure into an overwhelmingly white canon’ (Z. Smith, ‘Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Imaginary Portraits’, The New Yorker, 12 June 2017). Instead, perhaps more than anything, Yiadom-Boakye’s subjects represent extensions of her own imagination: ‘they’re all black’, she explains, ‘because ... I’m not white’ (L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in conversation with H. U. Obrist, Kaleidoscope, No. 15, 2012, p. 102). In certain paintings, she deliberately toys with the frictions of race and gender politics; in others, her protagonists are simply present, lost in thought or going about their daily lives. Here, life simmers beyond the edges of the picture plane, rich in untold secrets.

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