Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and the “Sweetness of Doing Nothing”*

Jack Shainman, In Lieu of a Louder Love, Jan 10-Feb 16, 2019


“Holy Provocations” (2018) oil on canvas, 51” x 78”

As you know if you follow my remarks at all, I’m no fan of the hasty painters and the painting-a-day folks, in which camp Yiadom-Boakye squarely resides.

But Holy Provocations is a wonderful surprise, a painting in which one person looks lovingly at another—a most uncommon theme for a current painter exploring figuration, no?
*”La dolce far niente” comes to mind, the end of a picnic, a lovely summer day still happens once in a while.

Yiadom-Boakye is a deft hand with a paintbrush capturing warm lively expressions in the faces she paints. They have all the light and spontaneity of watercolor—a remarkable achievement in oil on canvas. The hands, though more crude, are also expressive and in most of her work I find myself looking between the hands and the faces and ignoring the rest of the painting which is as her gallery describes “sparse” and “contemporary” —she seems to take almost no interest in large areas of the canvas. 

Holy Provocations is not like that. The area between the faces is charged and emphasized by the plaid of the jacket and the geometry of the hands. The lower figure which is slip-sliding off the canvas is held by the intensity of the gaze and the red blanket they lie on. Here also the landscape that stretches far and away into the distance is meaningful; it is beautifully painted and the two men are in this vast open space, completely alone and therefore safe.