Based in London, Yukhnovich has attracted critical admiration for immersive paintings in which glimpses of art historical styles, from French rococo and Italian baroque to abstract expressionism, are spliced with references drawn from contemporary films, music, literary sources and consumer culture. Her art boldly explores materiality and process as vehicles for meaning, with cascading and swirling forms evoking rhythm and energy to flow between representation and abstraction.
‘Flora is an artist with a remarkable creative vision who is defining her own language of painting to conjure a compelling universe. There is an unmistakable force and energy to her work.’—Iwan Wirth
Through her work, Yukhnovich astutely addresses dynamics of power inherent in received readings of art historical subjects and their associated hierarchies, in particular by questioning notions of femininity and gender that are hard-wired into the aesthetic language of color and form. Along with the intensely corporeal characteristics of her work and the visceral impact of her painterly gestures, Yukhnovich’s selected titles—for example, ‘Warm, Wet N’ Wild’ (2020) and ‘Maybe She’s Born With It’ (2022)—provide coordinates which reference consumer and popular culture.
Iwan Wirth, President, Hauser & Wirth, commented, ‘We are delighted to begin our representation of Flora Yukhnovich and look forward to our collaboration with Victoria Miro. Flora is an artist with a remarkable creative vision who is defining her own language of painting to conjure a compelling universe. There is an unmistakable force and energy to her work. She mines art history while applying conceptual rigour in considering a broad sweep of cultural references from 18th-century painting to the current day. At Hauser & Wirth, we share this deep interest in creating dialogues between artists and ideas of different eras, and we are excited to explore these possibilities with Flora as we bring her work to ever wider audiences.’
From 8 July 2023, Yukhnovich will be the first artist to take part in a new series of solo exhibitions responding to the collections of the Ashmolean, Oxford, titled ‘Ashmolean NOW: Flora Yukhnovich x Daniel Crews-Chubb.’
About the artist
Flora Yukhnovich was born in Norwich, United Kingdom in 1990 and lives and works in London. Her characteristic painting language emerged during a period of study as a Fine Art student at City & Guilds of London Art School, where she completed her MA in 2017. Prior to this she undertook portraiture studies at The Heatherley School of Fine Art in London.
Since her first solo exhibition in 2017, Yukhnovich’s artistic vocabulary has developed through a process of symbolic collaging of imagery by 18th-century artists, from the erotic pastorals of François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard to the epic ceiling frescoes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Rococo style carries associations of being superficial and lowbrow, a reading which endures from revisionist attitudes dating back to the neoclassical shift in taste which saw its demise at the dawn of the 19th Century. As curator Eleanor Nairne writes, ‘Yukhnovich’s paintings refuse to indulge in earnestness, with any risk of celestial grandiloquence quickly undercut by the appearance of a bubble or a cherub.’
Expanding from the theme of the pastoral, ideas of fantastical worlds, escapism and enchanted islands have continued as metaphors in Yukhnovich’s work throughout an evolution over the last few years. A residency in Venice, Italy, in 2019, and the influence of Tiepolo’s ceiling paintings studied first hand, led to airy choreographed compositions in which the liquidity of the paint is as evocative of the aqueous sensuality of the Italian baroque as it is of the floating color field abstraction of post-war American artist Helen Frankenthaler. In the resulting paintings, such as ‘Pontecello’ (2020), Yukhnovich creates lateral connections between the subject matter of Venus with her watery origins and the unctuous materiality of the painted surface. As she explains, ‘It is exactly this interplay between figuration, abstraction and the formal qualities of paint as a medium that I am searching for in my work.’
The notion of excess, and mining the deliberate discomfort it brings, is central in the artist’s reclaiming of the ‘Fête galante’, a genre created by Antoine Watteau that provided the inspiration for Yukhnovich’s solo exhibition in 2020 at Leeds Art University, United Kingdom. In ‘Butter Wouldn’t Melt’ (2020), sexualised female forms are abstracted and broken down to create what the artist described as ‘a pervasive, all-over sense of something uncontainable which permeates the paint on the surface.’ Here, the sheer abundance of the rococo style and the application of paint through a proliferation of loose marks and brush strokes become a means of resisting the objectification of her protagonists.
The artist’s recent works have taken a darker turn to delve into the concept of ‘the monstrous feminine’ by colliding two very different frameworks about puberty, reproduction and the female body. Invited to spend time immersed in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 2022, Yukhnovich was drawn to the Still-Life Paintings Gallery and the floral, fleshy and dark elements that can be found in Dutch flower paintings of the 17th and early 18th Century by artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert, Adriaen Coorte, Clara Peeters and Rachel Ruysch. Through a literal and metaphorical collaging process, archetypical motifs of idealised and controlled beauty are combined with references to the female characters of horror movies such as The Witch, Carrie and Raw. As Lena Fritsch, the Ashmolean’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, writes, ‘Yukhnovich’s fleshy, visceral and allengulfing painting language can be interpreted in relation to an untamed side of women, which horror films feature in highly aestheticised and exaggerated form. Within the space of Yukhnovich’s paintings, these gender constructions are abstracted, blurring the dichotomies of pretty/monstruous, pure/obscene, young/old. Above all, however, these paintings convey Yukhnovich’s strong love for the medium of paint and the creative process of painting.’