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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Artist 212

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Portraiture Painting Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (born 1977) is a British painter and writer. She is best known for her portraits of fictitious subjects painted in muted colors. Her work has contributed to the renaissance in painting the black figure Yiadom-Boakye's work consists mostly of painted portraits of fictional black subjects. Her paintings are predominantly figurative with raw and muted colours. The characteristic dark palette of her work is known for creating a feeling of stillness that contributes to the timeless nature of her subjects. 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.

Her portraits of fictional individuals feature people reading, lounging and resting in traditional poses. She brings to the depiction of her subjects contemplative facial expressions and relaxed gestures, making their posture and mood relatable to many viewers. Yiadom-Boakye’s strives to keep her subjects from being associated with a particular decade or time. This results in choices like not painting shoes on her subjects as footwear often serves as a time stamp.

These figures usually rest in front of ambiguous backgrounds, floating inside monochromatic dark hues. These cryptic but emotional backdrops remind commentators of old masters like Velasquez and Degas. Since 2017 her subjects have included more vibrant details such as a checkered, linoleum-floor, a bold headwrap and bathing suit and a yellow, orange and green background. With her expressive representations of the human figure, the artist examines the formal mechanisms of the medium of painting and reveals political and psychological dimensions in her works, which focus on fictional characters who exist beyond our world in a different time and in an unknown location.

For an artist, she is unusual in describing herself as a writer as much as a painter—her short stories and prosy poems frequently appear in her catalogues. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's talks about her writing is to her as her painting and explains that "I write the things I don’t paint and paint all the things I don't write." She paints figures that are intentionally removed from time and place, and has stated, “People ask me, ‘Who are they, where are they?’ What they should be asking is ‘What are they?’ “

Sources Consulted:…/…/exhibition/lynette-yiadom-boakye


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