We still can’t go anywhere! Just reminiscing on a day in December when I went to see the Lynette Yiadom-Boakye exhibition at Tate Britain. It was gorgeous, I can’t remember having felt taken like that in a gallery in years. When we are allowed out again, I will probably go back. Couldn’t resist the bookshop on the way out but impressed myself by walking out with only one book!
I thought How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division would be a great introduction to Elif Shafak and it was. More on that below!
Fly In League With The Night @ Tate Britain
Lynette Yiadom Boakye is an incredibly talented British Ghanaian artist who paints beautiful, enigmatic portraits of fictitious people. The people she paints only exist in her head but something in their presence seems so familiar to me. She takes ‘I saw things I imagined’ to another level! What holds you at the painting (aside from sheer beauty) is it seems like a whole puzzle to figure out where the person is their heads! What are they thinking and what state is their life in? It’s interesting because they are portraits of Black people doing very ordinary things but Lynette Yiadom Boakye really captures every day vulnerability. Just Black people being. A lot of just sitting or standing- at the most performative, the subjects are ballet dancers. The expressions though- their expressions you will recognise without knowing exactly what they denote.
‘I write about the things I can’t paint and paint the things I can’t write about.’
– Lynette Yiadom Boakye
Seeing the exhibition provided some much needed respite on my day off. I was in awe and have definitely found a new favourite. I find it amazing that the subjects are made up! Fly In League With The Night brings together around 80 works from 2003 to the present day, I’d definitely recommend it. Tate Britain is closed now (Lockdown), otherwise the exhibition is open until May
Boakye attended Central Saint Martins, Falmouth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. She is the 2018 recipient of the Carnegie Prize, awarded for her contribution to the Carnegie International, 57th Edition. She was short-listed for the 2013 Turner Prize. You Can read a bit more about her here and I enjoyed this interview with Vogue
Almost forgot, icing on the cake- She curated a Spotify Playlist for the exhibition! Some Prince, some Solange, some Ebo Taylor.
Going to take a little moment to shout out Black Blossoms! After seeing this exhibition, I was keen to see what I’d been missing in Black British art and I loved their course! Founded by founded by curator and educator Bolanle Tajudeen in 2015, Black Blossoms have such a range of courses that I know I will be back!
How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division by Elif Shafak
I’ve been hearing alot of good About Elif Shafak (The Bastard Of Istanbul, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World) but hadn’t read anything by her yet. I saw this short book and thought I’d get acquainted!
I found How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division so engaging. Very short, very simple, food for thought or an accompaniment, considering we are always thinking about these points now anyway. I was constantly thinking about how her words fit into my current psyche. In this short book (a long essay/ manifesto) Shafak interjects her personal experiences into the challenges we are facing in a world where we’re increasingly moving apart, settling into disparate tribes, regarding differences with suspicion. Brexit, Covid, red caps in the US, endless list. It’s not a book of incredible revelations, I think she is simply inviting us to think and offering hope.
I initially read the title as the start of an instruction but the more I read, the more it sounded like both a cry of exasperation and a call to consider, rather than to wait to be given an answer. How do we stay sane right now?? Elif Shafak gives her own considerations with thought provoking anecdotes. She talks about education, belonging, group narcissism education and the dangers of polarised thinking without nuance. There are alot of quotables
Elif Shafak divides How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division into parts titled Disillusionment, Anger, Apathy and Anxiety. Found it interesting that disillusionment phase was what I found easiest to accept. Anger, apathy and anxiety aren’t the emotions I accept easiest although with the world as it is now, those feelings are always somewhere close. They are easier switched off. But almost everything written rang true
I like the clarity in her writing so I’ve recently picked up Black Milk for later. A book of essays I look forward to.