Michaela Yearwood-Dan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I make abstract paintings that explore themes around love, self-actualization…"
    —Michaela Yearwood-Dan
    Michaela Yearwood-Dan imbues her effusive, rose-hued canvases with the spirit of human and non-human experience. With billowing, sinuous movement, Muddlin’ on through draws from the fecundity of flora and the emotional impact of personal experience. Through non-figurative forms, the present work explores ideas of love, nostalgia, femininity and heartbreak alongside deep-rooted themes of class, race and gender from the perspective of a queer Black British artist. 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. Encouraging a prolonged engagement with the work, text written in Yearwood-Dan's expressive gold script further relates to past emotional experiences–a breakup, the global solitude of 2020–drawing viewers close in.


    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 galvanized to start incorporating these experiences into her work. Here, we catch snippets such as “I know that it’s hard, I know that it’s hard to be in this position,” or “Run away whilst you still can.”


    Detail of the present work.
    Detail of the present work.

    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.”i


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


    Believing firmly in art’s inclusivity, Yearwood-Dan’s compositions create inviting worlds that are spatially organized to make room for her viewers. 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 center of the work. Methodically working from the center of her canvas outwards, the spatial logic of Yearwood-Dan’s paintings is perhaps best contextualized 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.”ii


    Collector’s Digest


    • In October 2022, the artist’s auction record was set when Coping Mechanisms, 2021, sold for £239,400 at Phillips London.


    • 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 Emily Tobin, “Michaela Yearwood-Dan In her Studio,” House and Garden, November 18, 2020, online
    ii Michaela Yearwood-Dan, quoted in Davy Pittoors, “Michaela Yearwood-Dan ‘holds the community at Queercircle, London’s new LGBTQ+ art hub,” Wallpaper, June 14, 2022, online

    • Provenance

      Tiwani Contemporary, London
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2021)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Muddlin on through

signed, titled and dated ""Muddlin on through" 2020 Michaela Yearwood-Dan" on the reverse
oil, acrylic, ink and gold leaf on canvas
78 3/4 x 59 1/8 in. (200 x 150.2 cm)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $220,500

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022