Nourish the Talented

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye


Collection: Courtesy the artist, Corvi-Mora, Londen en Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

At once, enigmatic and vivid, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are portraits of fictitious subjects. At the heart of her painting practice is invention, breathing life into the people that emerge on her canvases. The nature of Yiadom-Boakye’s work, also offers the viewer the generous opportunity to find the familiar or the idiosyncratic in these characters. With this interpretative quality to Yiadom-Boakye’s work, it has also meant that it can be drawn into discourses or representational lenses that might be considered reductive in relation to the artist’s own ideas and intentions. For the artist, her paintings have never been specifically about foregrounding race. However, it can typically be the case that Yiadom-Boakye’s works are understood as being about black representation and identity. This common reading, though not necessarily incorrect, ultimately provides a one-dimensional understanding of her work, foregrounding a racialised gaze over the artist’s exploration of figuration and free invention. With these two paintings, we see the evolution and variety in Yiadom-Boakye’s practice. Nourish the Talented is an example of the work the artist made in her formative period, whereas A Head for Poison offers a very different, and more refined style of portraiture. It is works like these that demonstrate the significant contribution Yiadom-Boakye is making to the genre of portrait painting.

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