And when I realized that the subjects, the people in these paintings are fictional, I became a bit obsessed to find out more, as this is something quite rare (I’ve never seen another artist do this).
One of the main questions I had: why would anyone paint a dark-skinned subject over a dark coloured background? You couldn’t see anything (except for some teeth and bits of white clothing). But perhaps that’s the whole point. Perhaps she’s trying to express what it feels like to be on stage but ‘unseen’, to be talking but ‘unheard’, a ‘marebito’ (an enchanted person from a distant land) skilled at her craft but sometimes all one sees is her craft and not the person (the dancer and the soccer star with their backs turned to the audience). Sometimes she’s dying to let you know she is, but you can’t quite see her, only a sense of the level of her craft which is represented by the posture and clothing worn (Any Number of Preoccupations (2010), and the male and female black subjects on a black background).
In the final assessment, the black male and female characters in Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings, which must be seen in totality, are actually her; snapshots and representations of parts of her life, of what she’s going through or what these parts of her life, feels like.