Artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan on How She Taps Into the Creative Power of Background Noise and a Bit of Rest
A sense of peace descends upon visitors to Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s exhibition that is currently on view at Queercircle, a new space for LGBTQ+ art and artists in London. For “Let Me Hold You” (on view until September 8), she has created a sweeping curved floral mural as well as ceramics and furniture, which interprets the gallery as both a sanctuary and a safe space for self-expression.
Born in 1994, the artist often works with painting and sculpture, folding in vivid botanical motifs and elements from the environment that considering how nature continues to be exploited around the world, and how marginalized communities are often the earliest and disproportionately impacted by climate change.
The artist’s highly personal work also borrows from cultural signifiers of Blackness in the U.K., including healing rituals, acrylic nails, and carnival culture, but Yearwood-Dan reinterprets them through her own individual experience and defamiliarizes them, not allowing them to be simple stand-ins for racial or gendered notions of collective identity.
We caught up with the artist at her studio in Seven Sisters, London, about background music, the artists and friends who inspire her, and the power of rest to break out of a creative rut.
Can you send us a snap of the most indispensable item(s) in your studio and tell us why you can’t live without it?
Fast Drying mediums for oil paint are truly my life saver.
What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
Watering my plants!
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
If I’m not reading there is always something playing. If it’s not music I’ll have a silly chatty podcast like Table Manners or the Who! Weekly. I like my studio to feel relaxed and homely but also I love to zone out and just crack on with my work with some background noise.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
God, there are so many and I’m lucky that I have so many friends that inspire me too—Joy Labinjo, Jake Grewal, Miranda Forester, Emma Fineman, Kudzanai Hwame-Violet… I also think everyone should be following the work of Queercircle and Hospital Rooms, too.
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get unstuck?
Sleep and take a little time away to reset usually. I will also often do a little bit of artist research into my own archives.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?
There’s not one exact thing but I love when a work of art makes you stop to take it in and has you thinking about it throughout the rest of the day. Despise… hmm… I wouldn’t say I despise it, but it’s always a little sad when you see a work in-person that looks just as good or better online.
What is the last exhibition you saw that made an impression on you and why?
“Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” at the V&A, London. I hadn’t been to see many exhibitions in-person for so long but managed to get over to see it recently and I really enjoyed the nuanced exploration of masculinity through the vehicle of fashion.
“Michaela Yearwood-Dan: Let Me Hold You” is on view through September 8 at Queercircle, London.
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