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  • 'I love paint. I think it’s delicious. I find it the most thrilling, exciting stuff. I like the idea of it being excessive and luxuriating in it. And I hope that comes through in my work.' —Flora Yukhnovich

    At once highly complex and flamboyantly engaging, Flora Yukhnovich’s millennial spin on eighteenth century Rococo excess comfortably combines art historical and pop culture references in the artist’s ongoing investigation into aesthetic expressions of femininity, taste and beauty. Adopting the pastel-hued combinations particular to the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, alongside certain formal and compositional concerns the young painter’s rhythmically sensual compositions have elicited international praise for their technical precision and beauty.

     

    Tondo’s restless shifts between abstraction and figuration are typical of Yukhnovich’s work. However, with its dreamy, distinctive palette of midnight blues, sea-greens and lemony creams, Tondo signals a departure from the predominance of rose and pink tones that characterised the earlier work. Anticipating a subtle transition in the artist’s practice Tondo – as the title and the circular format to which it refers suggest – signposts Yuknovich’s more recent preoccupation with the Italian Rococo.

     

    Detail of the present work
    Detail of the present work.
    Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, The Wallace Collection, London © Wallace Collection, London, UK / Bridgeman Images.

    Rococo Remix

    'Although my work draws on Art History, the issues I’m interested in are generally rooted in the present.'
    —Flora Yukhnovich

    It was during her time as a student that Yukhnovich first began to think critically about 18th century aesthetics, stumbling across a reproduction of Fragonard’s The Swing in Mary Sheriff’s monumental monograph Fragonard: Art and Eroticism. So familiar as to have almost collapsed into kitsch, The Swing encapsulates key stylistic and formal concerns of the Rococo – its palette of mossy greens receding into billowing, blue-tinged passages as the richly textured foliage framing the female figure gives way to the intense spatial drama at the centre of the composition. Achieved through close attention to light effects, the coquettish young woman appears suspended in a softly cushioned hollow in the forest, the blushing rose pinks and rich creamy tones of her frothy skirts embodying the playful eroticism of the Rococo that Yukhnovich draws on with such confidence.

     

    Corresponding in unexpected ways to non-historical sources she was fascinated by, including Katy Perry’s distinctive brand of pastel-pop, 90’s kitsch, and Disney princesses, Yukhnovich was also struck by the manner in which Fragonard’s painting - and Rococo aesthetics at large – had come to stand in for a notion of femininity that was intimately tied to frivolity, excess and questions of bad taste that persisted today. 

    Music video for Katy Perry’s California Gurl, 2010

     

    Talking to Tiepolo

    'I always think in terms of light, tone and depth when I’m choosing my colours or the shape and direction of a mark.' —Flora YukhnovichExecuted in 2018, Tondo represents a pivotal moment in Yukhnovich’s practice as she began to separate out certain trends, colour palettes and, themes specific to the French and Italian expressions of a broadly European Rococo style ahead of her formative residency with Victoria Miro in Venice the following year. Popularised during the 15th century, the rondel or ‘Tondo’ was a circular compositional format most famously employed during the Italian Renaissance in the glazed and painted terracottas of Lucca della Robbia and celebrated representations of the Madonna and Child by Botticelli and Michelangelo. By the 18th century the tondo was also a popular format for fulfilling the vogue for ornately decorative interiors – its circular format meaning it could fill a more awkward space in upper corner of a room, above a doorway, or on the ceiling – with Giovani Battista Tiepolo emerging as a master of the form in Italy.

     

    Already in Tondo we can identify many of the key characteristics of these Venice works. In addition to the marked concentration on line, curve, heaven-ward focus, and structure, the format itself references Tiepolo’s stunning circular ceiling frescoes, notably his esteemed central tondo Bellerophon on Pegasus adorning the lavish palazzo Labia located on Venice’s Grand Canal.

     

    Giambattista Tiepolo, Bellerphon On Pegasus, 1746-47, Palazzo Labia, Venice
    Giambattista Tiepolo, Bellerphon On Pegasus, 1746-47, Palazzo Labia, Venice

    With its magnificent cumulous columns and intensely dramatic upward momentum of its composition, Tondo strikes up a direct dialogue with Tiepolo’s panel as a means of furthering her investigation into the colour and construction of Rococo painting, and of the relationship between the French and Italian schools. The present work is a magnificent example of Yukhnovich’s taste for the theatrical, shared by both the French and Italian Rococo, but manifesting in Tiepolo ‘as dance-like movement in the composition and play of light’.i

     

    Drawing comparison to the immersive all-over canvases of American Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell, Yukhnovich’s crystalline brushstrokes and densely textured surfaces also recall Dorothea Tanning’s enormous, prismatic mid-century compositions recently displayed as part of her major Tate Modern retrospective. With Tondo, Yukhnovich achieves the same shifting openness that she so admires in Tanning’s compositions and balances the art historical with abstraction with accomplishment.

  • Dorothea Tanning, Tempest in Yellow, 1956, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota © Minneapolis Institute of Art / Gift of funds from Regis Foundation / Bridgeman Images © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021
    Dorothea Tanning, Tempest in Yellow, 1956, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota © Minneapolis Institute of Art / Gift of funds from Regis Foundation / Bridgeman Images © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    •    Yukhnovich is one of the latest additions to Victoria Miro’s roster and was one of the first artists to be invited to undertake a residency with the gallery in Venice in 2019. The residency prompted a shift in her work from French to Italian influences and ushered in a looser and more gestural handling of brushwork that heightens the rhythmic sensuality that plays throughout her ambitious compositions.


    •    Earlier this year Elephant Magazine named Yukhnovich as an artist to watch. Selected as 'One to Watch’ of Elephant Magazine’s ‘Definitive Art Stars of 2021’. Flora Yukhnovich completed her MA at the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017. She has exhibited at Brocket, London; Parafin, London; GASK, the Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic; the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings; and at Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds Arts University.

     

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

     

    •    In 2018 Yukhnovich completed The Great Women Artists Residency at Palazzo Monti, Brescia. Listen to Katy Hessel’s interview with the artist here.

     

    •    During the second half of 2022, Flora will have a solo exhibition in London at Victoria Miro, and will present an exhibition of works responding to the collection at The Ashmolean, Oxford.

     

     Flora Yukhnovich discusses how Tiepolo, Casanova, and Vivaldi inspired the works in her new XR exhibition at Victoria Miro, “The Venice Paintings,” created during a residency in the city with the gallery last year.


    i Flora Yukhnovich in interview with Natalia Gonzalez Martin for Floor Magazine,  online

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, London (acquired directly from the artist)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Flora Yukhnovich: Sweet Spot, exh. cat., Parafin, London, 2019, p. 58 (illustrated, p. 59)

2

Tondo

signed and dated 'F Yukhnovich 2018’ on the overlap
oil on linen
diameter 109.8 cm (43 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £529,200

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021