A Lockdown Lament

A response to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition at Tate Britain; Fly in League With The Night, by Sarah Long.

I am sick of this interior life. 

I think of those poor, painted souls locked in the white-walled museum and it makes me feel sad. This interior life, that I get up and draw the curtains on, everyday; sit down in my own room and wait, looking out the window, is blue. Blue curtains, blue beds, blue sheets, blue notes. Colours change when they are in conversation with each other, Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings change when they are in conversation with each other. 

I haven’t changed, I haven’t conversed. I don’t want things – things – to change me. I am sick of buying things to self improve. I messaged my friend today to find out if all of her Instagram ads were also about therapy. I do need to talk to someone. I will talk to anyone. Yiadom-Boakye’s figures; these are people with exciting things to say. They have seen things that I have not – oh I’m going to make him smile! I will not rest until the corners of his mouth raise. I’ll listen. Tell me your story. I exist in dialogue and I am manipulated in narrative. I worry that I am a narrator; that I am destined to be around action but never in it. 

Yiadom-Boakye’s figures are wholly occupied with their own world, their own story. They refuse the politics of living in a time. Time; the machine we created and gave life to; the monster that oppresses us now, even as we sleep it is under our bed. It is as if that even though they are framed and boxed in, they chose it. I imagine them carrying the wood of their stretchers and setting down sticks, as if to pitch a tent. ‘This is me. This is not a cage, this is a boundary. You may skirt this area and no more; you’ll need a compass and a map; this is unfamiliar territory.’ 

I feel a strange jealousy that these souls will live on in their realm while I am frozen in the age of the Coronavirus. When I was in league with the night I swanned around the smoking area, giddy; I was an antagonist. I imagine them with a brush and a stroke swooping down and chatting to one another at night. Mingling in the warm breath of a room stuffed; full of people. Round, thick, fluid paint scraped and spread and contoured, catching light in licks and lines with gestures I haven’t felt on my body in months; craning their necks, bobbing their heads, averting their eyes, bouncing their tongues, feeling light-headed among people. They haunt the Tate every night. Ghosts. Except I’m the ghost because they are the ones who are living.

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