Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
The Black Watchful

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Britain, born 1977, The Black Watchful, 2018, London, oil on canvas, 200.0 x 150.0 cm; James and Diana Ramsay Fund 2019, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London..

This painting is different to the other pictures of people around it, also known as portraits.

All the portraits are of women.

But this one is different to them, in a number of ways.

The first is the style of painting.

The artist, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, uses broad, loose brushwork.

And the colours are dark and quiet.

The second is that this is not a real person.

All the other portraits here are of living people.

Lynette’s pictures are a mixture of different things.

The people in them are made up from drawings and photographs she has seen.

Her paintings have been called ‘portraits of society’,

the people in a town or place.

That means they are sort of a picture of many people, not just one person.

The third difference is that the woman in the picture is a person of colour.

All the other portraits here are of white people.

In the past, portraits have been mostly of white people.

When portraits have shown people of colour, they are often made to look different, or unusual.

Lynette is a woman of colour from Britain.

Her parents came from Ghana, a country in Africa.

Lynette paints people of colour.

She paints them doing everyday things.

She has said:

This is a political gesture for me. We’re used to looking at portraits of white people in painting.

Portraits usually show people who are rich or important.

Some things in portraits tell us these people are important, such as:

- clothing

- hairstyle

- jewellery

- the way they stand or sit

- the setting around them.

But the woman in Lynette’s painting here is an ordinary person.

She wears basic clothes.

It looks like she’s outside, maybe in a park – it could be anywhere.

She looks strong and confident.

She has loyal support from her dog.

Lynette’s picture isn’t of one woman of colour but of many women of colour.

It tells us that these women are strong and confident in themselves.