Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977)

Knave

Details
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977)
Knave
signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated ‘LYB 2011 Knave’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 7/8 x 47 3/8in. (200.3 x 120.2cm.)
Painted in 2011
Provenance
Corvi-Mora, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011.
Literature
Frieze, Issue 146, April 2012 (detail illustrated in colour on the cover).
Exhibited
Lyon, La Sucrière, 11th Biennale de Lyon: A Terrible Beauty is Born, 2011, p. 316 (illustrated, p. 101).
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Lot Essay

‘Colour for me is always about problem solving… To make something tangible through paint and to drag people out of the canvas, my starting point will often be a colour or very formal considerations’
(L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in interview with J. Stevens, 2012, http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/archive/news/images/Lynette_Interview.pdf [accessed 25/08/2015]).

‘I learnt about red from this painting: how to make it work. And that it is possible to lay scarlet next to orange, next to cadmium red, next to pink, next to black and bring the whole thing to life with a few patches of bare canvas and white. La Coiffure is a reminder that it is possible to achieve movement, elegance, heat, and brutality with very little and that it doesn’t need to look real to feel it’
(L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in R. Newbanks (ed.), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Munich 2014, p. 9).

Elegantly poised in a state of serene contemplation, a woman emerges from the pale backdrop of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s Knave, 2011. Eyes cast in a soft gaze, she carefully places her foot, her long lythe limbs like a ballerina. Deep in thought, her realness strikes us and yet she is a pure figment of Yiadom-Boakye’s imagination. Painted for the 11th Lyon Biennale, A Terrible Beauty is Born, 2011-2012, this painting epitomises Yiadom-Boakye’s unique ability to generate mood and emotion through a careful manipulation of colour and form. Recently the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London, Yiadom-Boakye has risen to international prominence, with a room at Massimiliano Gioni’s The Encyclopedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale dedicated to her. Working from a variety of source materials, but never from real sitters, the artist is fascinated less by the individuals she depicts than by the mechanics of painting itself – of pigment, tone and composition. Rooted in her engagement with the traditions of European painting, Knave testifies to Yiadom-Boakye’s fascination with the work of Edgar Degas, whose 1886 painting La Coiffure had a profound influence on her practice. As the artist explains, ‘I learnt about red from this painting: how to make it work. And that it is possible to lay scarlet next to orange, next to cadmium red, next to pink, next to black and bring the whole thing to life with a few patches of bare canvas and white. La Coiffure is a reminder that it is possible to achieve movement, elegance, heat, and brutality with very little and that it doesn’t need to look real to feel it’ (L. Yiadom-Boakye quoted in R. Newbanks (ed.), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Munich 2014, p. 9). One of a handful of single figures painted on a cream ground, Knave re-stages Degas’ sumptuous interplay of red tones. In the dialogue between the figure’s cadmium red belt, her peach coloured shirt and the earthy glow emanating from her skin and hair, Yiadom-Boakye infuses the composition with a deep sense of warmth.

The visceral, tactile immediacy of Knave stems partly from the fact that Yiadom-Boakye completes her paintings in one day, echoing the great Renaissance masters who painted frescoes a giornata. The result is a form of abstract expressionism: by channelling her energies into the process of painting, her anonymous figures stand as expressions of her psyche, recording her state of mind on a particular day. The ambiguity of her titles mirrors this way of working, often having little or no association with the subject of the painting. Through this contemplative approach, premised on the notion that ‘every working day starts with a different problem’, Yiadom-Boakye continually reappraises her figurative language, answering each problem with a new painting (L. Yiadom-Boakye, quoted in R. Newbanks (ed.), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Munich 2014, p. 105).
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