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b. 1977, United Kingdom

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Biography

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is an acclaimed British-Ghanaian figurative painter and writer. She is well known for her enigmatic canvases of figures set against darkened spaces that resist placement within a specific time or geography. Fabricating compositions from found imagery and, foremost, from within her imagination, Yiadom-Boakye conjures bodies at once familiar and implacable, drawing the viewer into the suggestive realm of contemporary painting.

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Yiadom-Boakye's gestural canvases are often peopled with single black bodies caught in moments of pensive repose, or groups absorbed in internal dramas. Paired with lyrical and ambiguous titles such as Citrine by the Ounce (2014), In Lieu of Keen Virtue (2017) and To Improvise a Mountain (2018), Yiadom-Boakye evokes evanescent moods and moments that invite the viewer to apply their own interpretation to the artworks.

In Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Repose I (2015), a figure emerges from chiaroscuro darkness with swift brushstrokes that leave bare canvas visible. Looking out beyond the edge of the canvas, the figure's expression is languid and impenetrable. This inscrutable nature has brought questions of representation, race, and the canon of white art history to the fore.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye has suggested, however, that her true subject is painting itself: '[A] colour, a composition, a gesture, a particular direction of light. My starting points are usually formal ones.' She has cited Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet, as well as the unfashionable British painter Walter Sickert, as influences.

Yiadom-Boakye shares with these influences the technique of painting wet-on-wet, often completing compositions within a day. In a 2017 feature in The New Yorker, Zadie Smith noted that from Sickert and Degas Yiadom-Boakye has inherited 'a narrative compulsion' for suggestion: a literary practice of leaving sufficient space for the audience to complete the story. In this sense, the canvas becomes a text from which the artist constructs endless possibilities.

Born in 1977 in London, Yiadom-Boakye studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Falmouth College of Art, and gained an MFA from the Royal Academy Schools. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, and in 2018 she was awarded the Carnegie Prize.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Solo Exhibitions include:

Fly in League with the Night, Tate Britain, London (2020); Under-Song for a Cipher, New Museum, New York (2017); A Passion to a Principle, Kunsthalle Basel (2016); Capsule 03: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2015); Verses After Dusk, Serpentine Gallery, London (2015); Verses, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine (2013).

Ocula | 2020

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Featured Artworks

Embers for Crystals by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye contemporary artwork painting
Lynette Yiadom-BoakyeEmbers for Crystals, 2011Oil on canvas
200 x 181 cm
Not for sale
Duddell's
11pm Sunday by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye contemporary artwork painting
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye11pm Sunday, 2010Oil on canvas
Variable dimensions
Not for sale
Duddell's

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Recent Exhibitions

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye In Ocula Magazine

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