Flora Yukhnovich: Rococo and The Feminine Aesthetic

I catch up with the hugely talented visual artist Flora Yukhnovich to discuss her work, painting style and what inspires her to create. Keep scrolling down to see more of her beautiful works. 

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I think it goes to say that your works are nothing short of beautiful. And that you have an exceptional talent, especially when it comes to the lighting and compositions of your works. Can you tell us when you began to paint and give us a little more information about your background?

I suppose I first started painting when I was 15. I fell in love with the material right away. I wanted to learn everything about paint and after doing a foundation course at Kingston, I went and trained in portraiture for three years. It was a really valuable time spent painting the figure from life and working out how to use oils. For a short time afterwards I painted portraits on commission, before beginning the MA at City and Guilds.

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My craft background influences not just how I paint, but what I paint and the concepts behind my work. I have a fixation with seriousness (Why are some things deemed to be art and others are not?) I am fascinated by the myths, particularly those surrounding painting which have built the Western canon of "high art". Recently, I have been re-visiting those myths, trying to determine how, as a woman painter, they relate to me and affect the meaning of my work.

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I think it was Oli Epp who first mentioned your name in conversation, so seeing your works in person at City & Guilds was great. How was your time here?

It was an extremely exciting, very intense and introspective time. I suppose I crammed a whole BA and MA into one year. At City and Guilds there is an ethos of investigating the whole history of art in tandem with the immediate contemporary context, which has shaped the way I think about making work.

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Right now I am using the Rococo as a vehicle to investigate the idea of a feminine aesthetic. I’m looking at 18th century art theory and philosophy to understand how the notion of gender in aesthetics originated and in my paintings I’m pairing the visual language of the time with more recent feminist literature as a critique of the way “the feminine” is used in contemporary visual culture.

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Last year after completing your MA, you exhibited at Brocket Gallery and Cynthia Corbett Gallery. Tell us more about the works you showed at these.

I made the works for my show at Brocket in response to Hélène Cixous' essay “The Laugh of Medusa”.  It’s a passionately written manifesto, calling on women to express themselves without inhibition and to advocate for themselves in order to find freedom. She also ridicules the idea of the femme fatale and the description of women as an enigma. These were the two main ideas I was dealing with in the work. Some of the paintings were an expression of the surge of suppressed erotic energy that she describes, others were a cynical look at the allure and fear associated with temptation and the femme fatale.

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