|Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Knave, 2011, Oil on canvas.|
A Life in a Day: The Fictitious Portraits of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Text | Jennifer Higgie
If the 20th century has taught us anything, perhaps it is this: surfaces are unstable, and appearances are not, on the whole, to be trusted. The deceptively amiable paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are no exception. They may look like rather straightforward representations of people doing quite ordinary things - running along a beach, reading a book, taking a nap, or, more recently, dancing - but they're not portraits, they're pictures of people who don't exist. They're so full of personality that their fiction is initially a little unsettling. This is compounded by their technical proficiency: without the aid of photographs, models or preliminary sketches, Yiadom-Boakye wields her paintbrush with an old-fashioned ease and fluency, conjuring nuanced characters from her imagination. When I first saw her paintings, I assumed that they took a long time to make, but each one is,in fact, made in a day. This self-imposed constraint is enforced by the artist not only because, as Yiadom-Boakye told me, she has "a short attention span," but because she doesn't want the surface "to look too laboured." Peer closely at their rich, gestural surfaces and the speed and urgency of the brushstrokes becomes apparent in the occasionally wonky anatomical detail or inconsistent light source. What I first took to be images that, both in their making and in their subject matter, embody a mood of weekend-like serenity morphed into something more urgent and indeterminate, less polished and more interesting. Flaws, being human, are so much more endearing than perfection.