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Artist feature: Who is Flora Yukhnovich?

Artist feature: Who is Flora Yukhnovich?

Article written by Caroline Haller

 

British artist Flora Yukhnovich’s paintings have enamored the art world! Yukhnovich’s early works are explosive, sultry, and vibrant canvases that ooze luxury as they reference the opulent world of the 18th century Rococo. Inspired by art from Rococo greats like Boucher, Lancret, Watteau and Tiepolo, Yukhnovich’s art exists at the intersection of abstraction and figuration and references both art history and modern-day pop culture. This unorthodox combination of the typically masculine abstraction with the feminine Rococo combines sharp gestural brushstrokes with a roundness and sensuality characteristic of Rococo art.

Yukhnovich treats paint as a luxurious commodity. The abstracted figures are not the subject, but the paint itself is. She uses her whole body to paint and challenges herself to produce large scale works.

The value of Yukhnovich’s work has skyrocketed in recent auction sales. At Christie’s 20/21 Shanghai to London Sale on March 1st, 2022, Tu vas me faire rougir (You’re going to make me blush) sold for an astonishing $2.5 million after being estimated to sell around $400,000. Moreover, in 2021, her painting I'll Have What She's Having resold at Sotheby's for a record $3.1 million.[1]

Yukhnovich’s MA graduation show at the City and Guilds of London Art School in 2017 generated early press for the artist. Yukhnovich admitted to reading works about the Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard by art historian Mary Sheriff.[2] This led her to create an art that references Rococo art and carves a new path with unique concern for present day issues.

Le Mercredi, on s’habille en rose was featured in the 2017 MA show (Figure 1). It features the distinctive pastel pinks and blues that characterize the Rococo. In English the title reads “on Wednesday’s we wear pink,” which is a reference to the popular 2004 teen comedy Mean Girls. According to Tegan Huskinson, a collections assistant at Art UK, pink did not have a name in Europe until well into the 17th century. Additionally, it was not associated with women early on because red dye, from which pink was derived, was typically thought to be masculine.[3] Therefore, Yukhnovich challenges the typical readings of Rococo art and the definition of femininity in the 21st century.  

 

Figure.1. Flora Yukhnovich, Le Mercredi, on s’habille en rose, 2017, Oil on Linen, 170 x 240 cm, Courtesy of the Artist.

 

Yukhnovich was born in 1990 in Norwich, UK, and now lives and works in London. In 2017, she received her MA in Fine Art from the City & Guilds of London Art School. She also studied at the Heatherley School of Fine Art and Kingston University in London.

Her recent residencies have contributed greatly to her stylistic preferences and emotional output. In 2018, she completed a residency at the Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy in association with @thegreatwomenartists podcast, written and produced by Katy Hessel.[4]

The following year, in 2019, The Victoria Miro Gallery sponsored a studio space in Venice for artists to produce new content. Yukhnovich spent two months immersing herself in Venetian culture through studying the music of Vivaldi, the memoirs of Casanova and the art of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The residency culminated in the 2020 show “Barcarole” which was on view from 12th September – 24th October 2020 at The Victoria Miro Gallery in London.

Her time in Italy led to the introduction of more blues into her palette, as the Italian Rococo was characterized by cooler tones as opposed to the creamier tones of the French Rococo.

Yukhnovich’s most recent solo exhibition ran from the 1st- 26th of March 2022 at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. The show, entitled “Thirst Trap,” made waves with canvases covered in oozing, luscious, and thick paint. For the show, Yukhnovich took inspiration from depictions of Venus throughout the ages.

 

 

 

Fig. 2. Flora Yukhnovich, She is Beauty and She is Grace, 2022. Victoria Miro Gallery.

 

Yukhnovich studied the Greco-Roman mythology surrounding the formation of Venus from the froth of the sea, after Chronos threw the testicles of Uranus into the ocean. Thus, the paintings embrace fluid brushstrokes with an underlying turbulent quality adopted from the unpredictable nature of the sea.

Inspired by the conflation of the sea with the female, Yukhnovich’s paintings complicate the typical narrative surrounding the female body. The title of the show references the developments of the digital age and the trend for women to utilize provocative images of their bodies on social media to entice and entrap. Yukhnovich’s abstracted silhouettes obscure the female bodies and complicate the male gaze. The idea of the male gaze, as discussed in feminist theory, suggests that much art of the past depicted the female body from a heterosexual male perspective. By subverting the male gaze, Yukhnovich’s art pushes back against the titillation of the Rococo artistic language.

The stunning and monumental triptych She is Beauty She is Grace took its inspiration from the sensual painting by Peter Paul Rubens entitled Feast of Venus, which was completed between 1635-1636 (Figure 2). The figures in She is Beauty She is Grace are merely strokes of lighter paint against the rich blues and pinks. Their presence is suggested but not confirmed. The more we try to see the less we can.

Other inspirations for “Thirst Trap” include Boucher’s Triumph of Venus from 1740 and contemporary visual culture like Federico Fellini’s 1960 dramedy la Dolce Vita. One canvas in “Thirst Trap,” Warm, Wet and Wild, which metaphorically equates the body with pieces of fruit, is a reference to the Katy Perry Song, California Girls.

Work by Yukhnovich is on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York through July 10th, 2022. The exhibition is called “Impressionism: A World View,” and surveys the art of Impressionism. It features a gallery dedicated to “Contemporary Neo-Impressionists” and Yukhnovich’s work is part of that gallery.

We can also look forward to a series of solo exhibitions, which will respond to the collection at the Ashmolean in Oxford. The solo exhibitions will take place in 2023 and Yukhnovich is set to be the first to participate in the exhibitions entitled “Ashmolean NOW.”[5]

 

Certainly, we have lots to look forward to when it comes to Flora Yukhnovich! I cannot wait to see what else she creates!

 

 

[1] Gaskin, Sam. “Flora Yukhnovich Fetches £1.9m at Christie’s as Victoria Miro Show Opens.” Ocula News. 2 March 2022.

[2] Hessel, Katy.“ Flora Yukhnovich: Episode 26.“ The Great Woman Artists Podcast. 2020. https://soundcloud.com/thegreatwomenartists/flora-yukhnovich

[3] Huskinson, Tegan. “Pink! A very Rococo colour.” Art UK. 9 May, 2022.

[4] Hessel, Katy. “ Flora Yukhnovich: Episode 26.“ The Great Woman Artists Podcast. 2020. https://soundcloud.com/thegreatwomenartists/flora-yukhnovich

[5] Narine, Eleanor. “Flora Yukhnovich: Thirst Trap” The Victoria Miro Gallery, London, 10th March- 26th March 2022.

 


 

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