Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Interview

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Interstellar, 2012, oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 71 inches (Ja
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Interstellar, 2012, oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 71 inches (Jack Shainman Gallery)

Louisa Buck interviews painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, whose exhibition Verses After Dusk is on view at Serpentine Gallery, London through September 13, 2015.

Yiadom-Boakye comments: "For a long time now, I haven’t thought of what I do as portraits—I see them more as figurative paintings. I realised quite early on that I was not so interested in painting people whom I knew or doing the classic portrait from life, although I did it a lot when I was younger, because to be able to improvise, it’s important to train yourself how to look, and to be aware of how a body is composed or how a face sits. But once I tried to paint this guy who was really an incredible character and I was so disappointed with the outcome: I didn’t capture anything of him. Then I realised that I wasn’t interested so much in trying to capture someone who was actually there as I was in just the painting itself, and in letting that lead and decide what a person’s facial expression does, wh ere a hand sits or what a gesture is. So I was much more drawn to that as a way of working, to work from a composite of drawings, scrapbooks, found images, photographs—anything—and to bring it all together so it would be exactly what I wanted it to be: to play God."