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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye @ Serpentine Gallery


My post-graduate qualms are the reasoning behind this prolonged hiatus. With an extreme feeling of displacement, art world obstacles and lack of inspiration, I visited Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition ‘After Dusk’ at the Serpentine Gallery. Having never visited a solo show and only seen her work in isolation, it was imperative to experience this show thoroughly- I visited twice. The exhibition showcased a selection of her new work, along with a variety of  “key paintings”. Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits are commonly large black figures that remain outsite of a particular time or moment. With this intentional awareness, I deciphered this as a call to the viewer to attempt to investigate her artist strategies.

My first walk into the gallery came along with a sense of hope. The fact that these particular instituitions can carry the constructs of Black British work is highly important. Once taking in the moment I began to make my way around the gallery space. The dominant feature, I believe, of Yiadom-Boakye’s work is the use of dimension. The magnitude of her canvas pieces were cleverly curated to almost cover the gallery walls. Of which spoke to me as premeditated gesture to representation in overall gallery spaces. I continue my walk and as I view these faces I see family, friends and people I know. I certainly have never met these people (and neither has Yiadom-Boakye as she builds faces from her imagination). Still, I feel an overwhelming sense of sentimentality. That is the power of representation.

The figures stand larger, greater and more important than I. The bodies enlongated, the limbs extended- coated with generous oil brushstrokes building layers of colour to assemble the figures of importance. The pieces are a combination of smooth and loose application techniques that portray an impression of movement. The faces are repeated in different paintings and are disseminated throughout the gallery.  The volume of curation elevates this feeling of mobility and of meeting the same people continously. It appears that identity is the core of her practice. The focus is blackness, hence the muted background. She suggests that the most important subject you are viewing is the body- the black body. Another incredibly significant element of the background is the removal of objects, thus, decarding any concept of moments. Considering that the figures have no specific placement they enivtably exist as timeless. Perhaps this was an ingenious thought to speculate the belonging of black embodiment within gallery spaces. Her work, (because of the additional substractions) can exist anywhere. Her work becomes universal and so does the representation of blackness. A fanstaic show by the Serpentine Gallery.


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