1 OCTOBER - 15 NOVEMBER 2009
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Press article: 'New Order', Arise Magazine, Sep 2009
n. manifesto : a public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially
of a political nature. Italian, from Latin manifestus, meaning; clear, evident
The imaginary people that Lynette Yiadom-Boakye conjures up in her paintings all have the quality of real lives lived, a suggestion of their place in an unfolding personal narrative that the viewer can only guess or dream about. This is unsurprising given the artist’s literary tendencies. She writes manifestoes for her studio practise as well as short fictional stories that are usually left without conclusion, open-ended for the reader to finish themselves, much like her paintings which are a form of communication through materials rather than text.
In Yiadom-Boakye’s first solo exhibition at the gallery in June 2007 entitled ‘Series’, the paintings were conceived following sets of self-imposed rules such as ‘all heads turned to the left’ or ‘all portraits with a three-quarters turn’, with a similarly self-imposed constriction of colour palette, mostly reduced to black, white and brown. These rules ensured that it was the act of painting itself that was focused upon, rather than the distractions of deciding who was being created on canvas: decisions on sex, age and emotions were secondary to the formal considerations.
Two years later for this solo exhibition Yiadom-Boakye will be presenting paintings that each stand alone, emblematically following a specific manifesto devised to guide their individual creation. Most of her paintings are what are termed “one-shot paintings”, started and finished in a single day or bout of painting and therefore able to be viewed, compositionally, in an instant; they unequivocally communicate the initial manifesto and impulse behind them (though Yiadom-Boakye achieves this while leaving the narrative details highly ambiguous).
The people in these paintings are strong, powerful and often challenging. “‘Although they are not real’, says the artist, ‘I think of them as people known to me. They are imbued with a power of their own; they have a resonance – something emphatic and other-worldly. I admire them for the strength of their moral fiber. 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.” In this sense we are confronted by a political manifesto of a sort: the evidencing of a populace that is strong, competent and Black.
In the paintings Diplomacy I and Diplomacy II the manifesto behind Yiadom-Boakye’s practise is made clearer. These two inter-related paintings are the artist’s first compositions of people painted together as a group. The challenge of achieving a group dynamic is heightened by the fact that the source idea for these works was an image Yiadom-Boakye came across showing world leaders gathered together at a political summit. Displaced into the bodies of Black men and women lurk George Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, Tony Blair and Angela Merkel. They stand to attention, bristling with self-importance, political agendas and territorial ambition, together but utterly individual.
Born in 1977, London. Recent exhibitions include ‘Living Together : Towards a Contemporary Concept of Community’, curated by Xabier Arakistain and Emma Dexter, Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturenea, Vittoria-Gasteiz, Spain ; travelled to MARCO, Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Vigo, Spain (2009) ; The 7th Gwangju Biennial, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Korea (2008) ; ‘Flow’, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008) ; The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society’, 2nd International Biennal of Contemporary Art of Seville, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporareo Reale Ataronanas, Seville (2006-2007); ‘Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’, Gasworks, London (2007); ‘Series’, ARQUEBUSE (now Faye Fleming & Partner), Geneva (2007); ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’, Barbican, London (2004-2005); ‘Direkte Malerei’, Mannheimer Kunsthalle, Mannheim (2004). Upcoming projects include a solo show at Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town (2010), and the upcoming book "Contemporary African Art Since 1980", ed. Okwui Enwezor.