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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Conservative sensation

Future Generation Art Prize awarded to realistic painting
13 December, 2012 - 10:12

Future Generation Art Prize was awarded in two categories – special and main in PinchukArtCentre (or rather in the Kyiv Planetarium rented for the ceremony) on December 8-9.
The jury awarded the special prize, which is aimed at training and promoting the development of laureates, was divided among five artists from different countries. Jonathas de Andrade (Brazil), Micol Assael (Italy), Ahmet Ogut (Turkey), and Rayyane Tabet (Lebanon) had to divide 20,000 dollars among them but it was decided to increase the initial amount of the award.
The name of the winner of the Main Prize of the second competition Future Generation Art Prize became a real surprise. Painter Lynette Yiadom Boakye (United Kingdom) won 100,000 US dollars, of which 60,000 dollars – in cash and 40,000 dollars in the form of a grant to create new works of art.
Artist of African and British origin Lynette Yiadom Boakye was born in 1977 in London. She studied at the Saint Martin Central College of Art and Design, participated in numerous group exhibitions, including the Seventh Biennale in Gwangju (2008), Secret Community (Frankfurt am Main), 11th Lyon Biennale (all took place in 2011), and in The Ungovernables, Triennale in New York’s New Museum (2012), this year she also had a solo exhibition in London art gallery Chisenhale.
The difference of Yiadom Boakye from the rest of the contestants is rather technical but still important. She was the only artist who presented actual painting. The other participants limited themselves to genres that have become traditional for such exhibitions: video, performance, and installation. This, by the way, can be noted from the list of those awarded with the special prize.
For example, Micol Assael (Italy) and Ahmet Ogut (Turkey) preferred video. Assael presented a plotless film shot through a dirty glass, audience can see flies flying around and a dirt road – accordingly the persistent buzzing presents the soundtrack. And it does not really matter whether it is about the environment or about the fact that the whole world is a dump. Flies do not create any meaning.
Ahmet Ogut took more than routine stuff for the basis of his art work – it is a wedding video where he appears as a guest and gives out one-dollar bills with a web address written on them http://eyewriter.org. He did it to raise money for the production of a special device that allows paralyzed people to send written messages through eye movement. It is sure a noble goal, but it turned into poor art.
Marwa Arsanios from Lebanon combines action with a hint of an exposition: the artist sits in a room filled with deliberately carelessly placed artifacts (painted wooden boards, paintings copied on a printer) and reads radical texts out loud. Of course, presence of a living person as a part of the installation is impressive in itself, but there still remains the feeling of secondary character and pernicious semantic ambiguity: if there was some kind of message in it – be it political, social, or artistic, the author did not manage to convey it.
Marwa’s fellow countryman 28-year-old Rayyane Tabet tried to turn subjective into objective, that is, into objects. Drawing on his memories of childhood games with bright building blocks, which, apparently, in all cases consisted of basic geometric shapes – wooden cylinders, prisms, parallelepipeds, Tabet made 12,000 of such miniature blocks from concrete and used them to build a large installation “Architecture Lessons” on the floor of PinchukArtCentre. It looked like a small city for Lilliputians with abstract micro sculpture and childish sentiments, in a sense, even touching.
Jonathas de Andrade took a wall of half-destroyed building with abstract ornament set with colored tiles as the basis for his installation “Nostalgia, Class Sentiments.” He recreated the ornament in the hall of PinchukArtCentre adding some volume to it with color elements, he made them 10 centimeters tall. On the other three walls Jonathas wrote passages from the texts of two Brazilian architects about the rules governing how to arrange life in a city, replacing some words with the same red and yellow triangles, blue squares, etc. It turned out to be a witty, perfect in form artistic study of the fate of any utopia.
In fact, class sentiments are also characteristic for Yiadom Boakye. She paints psychological portraits in conventionally realistic manner: blurred abstract background, broad brushstroke. By and large, these paintings do not present anthropology or ethnography, but rather an instant image of states and moods, mostly melancholic. At the same time, there is present a significant social emphasis, because the heroes of Yiadom Boakye paintings, just like herself, are of African and British origin, people from poorer backgrounds. Such combination of psychology, realism, and sociality, obviously won her the victory.
But it seems that the main reason is that the technologies, which were explored by the artists as tools to combat commonplace in art – video, installation, performance, photography, have become extremely banal today. In this situation traditional painting looks rather fresh. Thus, we have such conservative sensation.
The exhibition will be open until January 6, 2013 and then it will move to Venice, where it will be presented within the framework of local Biennale. As for Kyiv audience, next year they will have a chance to see the personal exhibition of Lynette Yiadom Boakye at PinchukArtCentre.

By Dmytro DESIATERYK, The Day