Michaela Yearwood-Dan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "I’m most proud of my choice to move away from figurative work, to integrate text and make my vulnerability visible to my audience."
    —Michaela Yearwood-Dan
    Combining text and gestural mark-making in exuberant and expressive passages of vibrant colour Coping Mechanisms is a work of high intensity by young British artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Diaristic and deeply personal, Yearwood-Dan’s paintings record her observations on the key social issues of the day, prompted by her reflections on race, class, gender, and environmentalism. Focusing on tensions between nature and culture, her paintings and sculptures incorporate botanical motifs and forms in the creation of lush, all-over environments that are as contemplative as they are visually compelling.


    Lyrical Abstraction


    In her elegant combinations of painterly gesture and poetic fragment, Yearwood-Dan’s large-scale canvases nod to the all-over compositions of Cy Twombly, although where Twombly’s references looked back to a classical past, Yearwood-Dan’s are rooted firmly in the present moment, incorporating song lyrics, drafted notes of text messages never sent and her ‘conversations’ with Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri. More than reflection on her technological present, Yearwood-Dan also responds to the socio-cultural experience of being a Black British woman. Faced with certain micro-aggressions as a student and in the art world more broadly, the artist was galvanised to start incorporating these experiences into her work, poignantly expressed here with the prominent line of text along the right hand edge a reminder to ‘Be assertive, bold, and fearless’.


    Left: Cy Twombly, The Four Seasons: Spring, 1993-94, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © Cy Twombly Foundation 
CAPTION: Right: Detail of the present work
    Left: Cy Twombly, The Four Seasons: Spring, 1993-94, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence, Artwork: © Cy Twombly Foundation 
    Right: Detail of the present work

    Borrowing certain cultural signifiers of contemporary Black Britishness including carnival culture, acrylic nails, and hooped earrings, Yearwood-Dan avoids trite stereotype or reductive cliché by inflecting this collective visual language with her own, lived experience. Even the incorporation of botanical forms has its roots in the artist’s own life, houseplants especially resonant of her mother’s reputation as ‘the queen of clippings’ and the leafy cemetery near her childhood home in South London, as well as drawing on deeper family connections to the Caribbean, where both of her parents are from. Here figuring in the repeating motif of the teardrop-shaped leaves of the ‘weeping fig’ houseplant adds a personal and highly relatable dimension to the Coping Mechanisms addressed by the title.


    Believing firmly in art’s inclusivity, Yearwood-Dan’s compositions create inviting worlds that are spatially organised to make room for her viewers, eloquently realised in the billowing, cumulous passage at the centre of the present work. Recalling devotional ceiling frescos that carry the eye up, through flying putti and celestial visions to the heavens beyond, these portal-like passages retain a sense of the transportive and ecstatic, carrying viewers with them to the centre of the work. Methodically working from the centre of her canvas outwards, the spatial logic of Yearwood-Dan’s paintings are perhaps best contextualised in relation to her recent site-specific installation for Queercircle in London. Invited to contribute to their inaugural exhibition, Yearwood-Dan created a monumental wrap-around mural with purpose built seating set inside its curve, creating an immersive sanctuary for visitors to sit and reflect within. Making direct connections between this installation and her canvases, Yearwood-Dan explained ‘Curating and creating a space with my work, both physically and metaphorically, is something I’ve always been really conscious of.’i


    Michela Yearwood-Dan discusses her practice and site-specific installation with Queercircle, London. Filmed by Winsor & Newton.


    Finding solace in words in a time of emotional turbulence, Yearwood-Dan first began incorporating snatches of text and phrases alongside her thick impasto layers of paint in 2018 in the wake of a breakup. Demanding a slower kind of looking, words weave in and out of dynamic passages of paint. As the artist explains:  ‘I want people to spend time with my work, so some pieces of text are visible and others are not. I’ve intentionally made it so you can’t read everything.’ii


    Collector’s Digest


    • Interested in the intersections of society and the self, Yearwood-Dan’s work moves between the personal and the political, combining reflections on class, race, and gender politics with more personal feelings related to loss and love.


    • Yearwood-Dan has been celebrated with several solo exhibitions between New York and London. This year, Tiwani Contemporary celebrated the artist with a solo exhibition The Sweetest Taboo following their 2019 show, After Euphoria. In 2021 she was the subject of a solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery and in 2019 at The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation.


    • Most recently, Yearwood-Dan created a site-specific installation for Queercirle, a dedicated safe space for LGBTQ+ communities to gather. Earlier this year Yearwood-Dan was featured in the third annual Great Women Artists Residency at Palazzo Monti.  


    i Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Davy Pittoors, ‘Michaela Yearwood-Dan ‘holds the community’ at Queercircle, London’s new LGBTQ+ art hub’. Wallpaper, 14 Jun 2022, online.

    ii Emily Tobin, ‘Michaela Yearwood-Dan In her Studio’, House and Garden, 18 November 2020, online

    • Provenance

      Galerie Maria Bernheim, London
      Private Collection, Europe
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London and Zurich, Galerie Maria Bernheim, Images: Ghost Painterly Abstraction, 2 September – 23 October 2021


Coping Mechanisms

signed, titled and dated ‘“Coping Mechanisms” 2021 Michaela Yearwood-Dan’ on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
170 x 120 cm (66 7/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £239,400

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022