Lynette Yadiom-Boakye paints mysterious, fascinating, enigma-laden figures. They look like portraits, but it is a deception, because these are not real people, but fictional characters who only inhabit the world created by painting. The British artist, of Ganese origin, takes inspiration from his own memory and imagination to build the physical and psychological traits of the protagonists of his paintings through the specificities of the pictorial language. The works on display feature male and female characters, always black, decidedly austere, quiet, pensive.
His evident, structural brushstrokes, spread with the immediacy of a gesture that does not admit revisions, highlight the material qualities of oil painting, its living presence, and at the same time are characterized by an economy of means that at times it brings out a raw, unresolved space.
This exhibition presents a group of works that belong to the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. Dated from 2013 to 2018, the works exemplify the artist's research, which develops a passionate analysis of the expressive possibilities of the pictorial medium, and at the same time highlights its ideological, historical and contemporary assumptions.
The scarce contextual references, the backgrounds just hinted at or totally abstract, the generic clothing, amplify this sense of indeterminacy. Contrary to the tradition of classical portrait painting, there are no clues to define the peculiarities of the individual, his belonging to an era, a profession, a social status. It is not their reality as persons that is represented, but their intrinsic humanity, made essential but not trivial. The fact that all the figures are black is a central theme, which the artist does not intend to emphasize in a political key, and which nevertheless brings into play the Western canon and the absence / invisibility of the black subject in our cultural and artistic history. In this perspective, the play of direct or averted gazes, intent or distracted, that is established between characters and audience is relevant, because it gives shape to a dynamics of power, control, subject / object relationship, as evident in works such as Diamonds and Midnight, Cadiz, both 2013.
In other works the black body is the protagonist, in its physicality, presence, beauty. They are the bodies of dancers, a recurring theme in the artist's work, which evokes Degas, but here the body is in a state of stillness, expressing a subdued elegance, as in Switcher, 2013, at the center of which the sensual back of the woman stands out, in a fluid movement just hinted at.