Flora Yukhnovich - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'The idea of fluidity of form feels like a very painterly concept to me, a bit like creating seemingly solid figures out of wet paint.' —Flora Yukhnovich Unfolding in ebullient waves of creamy whites, rose pinks, and dusky lavender tones Moi aussi je déborde is an energetic expression of young British artist Flora Yukhnovich's immediately recognisable blend of Rococo aesthetics and contemporary cultural references. Placing notions of femininity and questions surrounding female sexuality, pleasure, and the male gaze at its centre, the present work playfully draws together classical mythology, 20th century French feminist theory, and the excessive femininity associated with the paintings of Jean-Honoré Fragonard, François Boucher, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in its dynamic arrangements of colour and form. 

     

    Detail of the present work 

    Rococo and Excessive Femininity 

     

    Slipping between figuration and abstraction, Yukhnovich’s highly fluid treatment of oil paint captures the sheer pleasure taken by the artist in her medium. As the artist has described ‘there is something corporeal about paint […] the way a painterly gesture can talk about the physical experience of touch in a visceral way, breaking down the distance between the viewer and work.’i  Executed in 2017, the same year as her pivotal graduate show at City & Guilds London School of Art, Moi aussi je déborde is highly expressive of this mutability and tactility. Evidencing the young artist’s technical skill and painterly confidence, it captures an important early moment in the consolidation of her practice, refracting the keen sense of ‘the materiality of paint: how it could describe flesh and fleshiness’ garnered from her early portraiture training at the Heatherly School through an experimentally rigorous framework developed during her time at City & Guilds.ii  


    Capturing the fluctuations of the body, Yukhnovich’s gestural brushstrokes and experimental approach to form revitalise the drama and eroticism of the Rococo, recalling what Ewa Lajer-Burcharth has described as the ‘bold composition, gestural panache, expressive range, and chromatic brilliance’ attributed to Fragonard and his mentor, Boucher.iii Incorporating certain compositional elements and references to these Rococo masters - notably nods to the foaming waves, winged putti, and whirling ribboned elements that dominate Boucher’s 1740 Le triomphe de Vénus that were themselves reinterpreted in Fragonard’s La naissance de Vénus a decade later - Moi aussi je déborde belongs to a body of work concerned with reclaiming feminine excess and frivolity on strictly feminist terms. 

     

    Francois Boucher, Le triomphe de Vénus (The Triumph of Venus), 1740, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Image: Cecilia Heisser / Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

    Dark Continents and Laughing Medusas 

     

    First presented at Yukhnovich’s 2017 solo exhibition with Brocket Gallery, Moi aussi je déborde brings these elements of her practice into sharp relief, refracting Rococo erotics through a language of radical feminism. Translating into English as ‘Me too, I overflow’, the title of the present work quotes directly from Hélène Cixous’ 1975 essay, The Laugh of the Medusa (Le rire de la Méduse), a foundational text of French feminist theory. Introducing Cixous’ central concept of écriture feminine, the essay advocates for a radically embodied mode of writing that moves beyond the patriarchal structures of language that have historically limited and controlled women’s self-expression. Cixous writes: ‘I wish that women would write and proclaim this unique empire so that other women, other unacknowledged sovereigns, might exclaim: I, too, overflow [Moi aussi je déborde]; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard songs. Time and again, I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could explode – explode with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a stinking tune.’iv

     

    Jean-Honoré Fragonard, La Naissance de Vénus, 1753-55, Musée Grobet-Labadié, Marseille

    Forcing a critical reflection on how the excessive femininity of the Rococo could be reclaimed as a powerful mode of writing from the body, references to Cixous and to feminist theory recur through the titles presented in the 2017 exhibition, from Le rire de la Méduse itself, to references to Sigmund Freud’s notion of women’s sexuality as that ‘dark continent’ of psychology. At once celebrating and problematising art historical representations of femininity and female desire, Moi aussi je déborde stages a joyous reclamation of desire from ‘an 18th century male gaze to a thoroughly contemporary notion of feminine pleasure and ownership.’v 


    Like Venus herself, emerging from the sensually churning, frothing waves in Fragonard’s later composition, Yukhnovich’s forms remain open and fluid, never ossifying or solidifying, but maintaining an essential emphasis on process and becoming that draws a formal comparison to Dorothea Tanning’s stunningly prismatic mid-century compositions. It is perhaps for this reason that Venus has remained such an important touchstone for the artist, forming the focus of her most recent solo exhibition Thirst Trap with Victoria Miro earlier this year, her canvases overflowing with ‘new desires’ and ‘unheard songs’, as Cixous might put it. 

     

    Dorothea Tanning, Ignoti nulla cupido, 1960, Galerie Gianna Sistu, Paris. Image: Adagp Images, Paris, / SCALA, Florence, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

    Collector’s Digest  

     

    • Since her graduation from City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017, Yukhnovich has exhibited at Parafin, London, GASK, the Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic, the Jerwood Gallery Hastings, Blenheim Walk Gallery, and Leeds Arts University. 


    • Earlier in 2022, the artist was awarded her first solo exhibition at Victoria Miro in London, and is currently preparing for an exhibition of new works responding to the collection at The Ashmolean, Oxford to be opened later this year. 


    • As a result of her breakout show with Parafin, Yukhnovich’s work is now housed in important UK collections including the Government Art Collection.

     

    i Flora Yukhnovich, quoted in Flora Yuknovich: Fête Galante (exh. cat.), The Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds, 2020, n.p. 
    ii Flora Yuknovich, quoted in ‘Interview // Through the Langugae of the Rococo: In Conversation with Flora Yuknovich’, Immediations Postgraduate Journal, No. 17., 2020, online
    iii Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, The Painters Touch: Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard, New Jersey, 2018, p. 177. 
    iv Hélène Cixous, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, in Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, trans., The Signs Reader, Chicago, 1983, pp. 279-97. 
    v Catriona McAra, ‘Flora Yukhnovich: Millennial Rococo’, Flora Yukhnovich: Sweet Spot, London, 2019, p. 7. 

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Brocket Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Brocket Gallery, Flora Yukhnovich, 6 December 2017 - 7 January 2018

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Moi aussi je déborde

oil on linen
130 x 220 cm (51 1/8 x 86 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£250,000 - 350,000 

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Kate Bryan
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Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022