Ten Minutes with Artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, as She Launches Her First US Solo Exhibition, ‘Be Gentle With Me’

Have you ever imagined a crazy mix of bright colours, abstract brush strokes and pop culture inspirations? Then meet Michaela Yearwood-Dan – she’s about to be your new favourite artist. Michaela is a contemporary British artist referencing the origins of traditional fine art and the world of pop culture through colourful abstract fine art. Her work takes cues from late-night food spots, sex-positive feminism and botanical influences, adding her own unique spin on the traditional narrative. After her first solo exhibition at London’s Tiwani Contemporary Gallery, the young artist’s unique brushstrokes now make their way to New York City for her first-ever US solo show.

Her latest exhibition dubbed Be Gentle With Me explore Yearwood-Dan’s search for selfhood and personal experiences via a collection of abstractly romantic paintings that challenge racial and gender norms. Across the collection, she explores the physical and metaphorical cues of her social and political stance as a queer, black and feminist artist.

Ahead of Be Gentle With Me’s opening, we caught up with the artist to talk about her creative process.

How would you describe your art form? 

Shorthand, I always tend to describe them as “large scale abstract paintings, with text and botanical referencing”

Why did you choose to dive into fine art painting? 

I always loved to paint so it simply felt like a natural progression to study it and focus on that as the primary medium of my practice. I like how varied it can be…like gentle, flat and smooth or super tactile.

How do you communicate your personal identity in your pieces? 

Through the energy and mood, the works evoke, as well as the text use. The works are an extension of self but I don’t exclusively think they aim to communicate personal identity per se.

What inspires you as an artist? 

Life, love…laughter…joking. But yes life, specifically how we navigate it on a micro and macro scale and all the interconnected elements of it, like the relationships we have, politics, nature and self-introspection. 

What message do you wish to communicate via the bright colours seen in your artworks? 

Hmm…that they’re here to be seen and given space, as am I 

Your abstract paintings reference both Fine Art and pop culture. How do you merge these two concepts visually? 

Definition wise I think the line between them is very thin. I think people like to overcomplicate the idea of Fine Art and trivialise the existence of pop culture – as if it [pop culture] isn’t freely borrowing from a multitude of intellectual cultural histories to keep itself sustained. For instance, the inclusion of gold leaf, gold paint, and glitter in some of my recent work can be seen to refer to renaissance fine art paintings but in the same vein, I float between them representing that and representing the gold costume jewellery I’ve worn for years.

Your first solo US exhibition is about to debut. What is the exhibition about? 

It’s a reflection of the past two years, both exploring topics from a wider perspective and also through a deeply personal outlook. As someone who fits under several marginalised identifiers it’s been an interesting time to navigate and these large, bold and colourful works exist to both give incite to my experience as well as to purposely take up and demand space.

What themes/ideas does the exhibition explore? 

BLM, exploring queer identity, feminism, anti-right-wing political commentary and love…with a sprinkling of nuanced humour in places. 

What can we expect from you next? 

More paintings, more ceramics and more international shows.

Be Gentle With Me will be on display from September 9-October 23 at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City. 

Photography courtesy of Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce


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