December 12, 2020

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at the Tate Britain

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibit at the Tate Britain invites us to see portraits of black individuals as they always have been, but have been deprived of representation of throughout art history.
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Museums

About the Exhibit - Fly In League With the Night

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibit, Fly In League With the Night, at the Tate Britain is on view from December 2nd, until May 2021. This was actually my first visit to the Tate Britain and although it’s smaller than the Tate Modern I really loved the architecture and detail of the space.

The Tate Britain

I’ve had the privilege of seeing an exhibit of Yiadom-Boakye’s at Jack Shainman Gallery last year, but the scale of the exhibit is even more impressive, consisting of 80 works from 2003 to the present day.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye has reinvented one of the most traditional forms of art - portraiture (particularly in oil paint). Similar to how dutch masters fantasized their subject matter, Yiadom-Boakye imagines her subjects in such detail that you feel they’re almost more real than actual humans. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“The figures in Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are not real people – she creates them from found images and her own imagination. Both familiar and mysterious, they invite viewers to project their own interpretations, and raise important questions of identity and representation.” (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

I’m sure it’s deeply personal and exciting for Lynette to have a major museum show in her home country. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye currently lives and works London. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“She has turned Tate Britain on its head.” - The Guardian (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“That Yiadom-Boakye’s subjects happen to be black, reflecting her own identity, reminds us of the overwhelming whiteness of this tradition.” - Alex Farquharson (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

For too long, especially in Europe, we see the same oil paintings of white male and female aristocracy or royalty. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye brings the same elevation to her subjects but portrays her own race that’s completely missing from art history. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“Yiadom-Boakye wants to capture the evanescence of mood, not burden us with narrative detail.” - Andrea Schlieker (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

The thing I love most about museum exhibits devoted to an artist’s career is the ability to see how the artist has evolved over time. Around 2006 Yiadom-Boakye leaned heavily into creating paintings with a heavy, dark, monochromatic color scheme where the figure was almost lost and kept at a distance. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 2009
“Over time I realized I needed to think less about the subject, and more about the painting. So I began to think seriously about colour, light, and composition. I was always more interested in the painting than I was in the people.” - Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 2012

In 2012, Yiadom-Boakye started to introduce bold colours. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 2016
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 2018

Another thing to note about Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s figures is that they’re confident and empowered but also at peace, living in the moment, almost at leisure. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye purposefully creates her subject in this manner to fight how Black subjects have been portrayed in portraits of the past, often in subservient or marginalized roles. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“If they are pathetic, they don’t survive - if I feel sorry for someone, I get rid of them. I don’t like to paint victims.” - Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“Yiadom-Boakye is interested in black society, not as it was affected or shaped by the white world, but as it exists unto itself.” - Hilton AIs
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“In a world dominated by an inflation of images, words and noise, of continually expanding metropoles, ever greater pressures of work and the increasing velocity of life, it becomes both psychologically and politically important to assert these spaces of stillness and repose, places in which people are doing nothing.” - Andrea Schlieker 
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“Lynett Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings believe in and make available that indelible truth. We may sometimes struggle to see each other, to come near each other. We may stand in close proximity and look directly at each other, as her paintings invite, but it takes several passes, several exchanges, the passage of time, to actually see and know each other more deeply.” - Elizabeth Alexander
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

A small and unique detail that I really appreciated about the show was the personalized Spotify playlist Lynette created, as well as a list of books that inspire her. The Art Newspaper wrote up a great article about how this is becoming more commonplace with exhibitions, and I’m excited by this since it creates a new way to not only connect with the art but the artist when viewing the works. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

About the Artist - Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a British artist, born in 1977.  She attended Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Falmouth College of Arts, and the Royal Academy Schools. Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Yiadom-Boakye since 2010

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
“Lynette Yiadom–Boakye is a British artist and writer. She is known for her enigmatic portraits of fictitious people, created from found images and her own imagination.”  - The Tate (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings often feature Black figures in moments of rest and stillness.” - The Tate (source
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

After this exhibit at The Tate Britain, it will travel to the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye


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