Art · The Creative Process: Artists, Curators, Museum Directors Talk Art, Life & Creativity podkast

JONATHAN YEO - Celebrated Portrait Artist on the Importance of Connection & Intuitive Intelligence

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How can the arts help cultivate our intuitive intelligence? What does visual art teach us about consciousness and the human condition?

Jonathan Yeo is one of the world’s leading figurative artists and portrait painters. From celebrated figures such as Sir David Attenborough, peace activist Malala Yousafzai, the Duke of Edinburgh, Nicole Kidman, and Tony Blair, sitting for a portrait with Yeo is a provisional necessity for any 21st century icon. His work, which has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, is the subject of several major mid-career retrospectives in the UK and internationally. Yeo’s course on portrait painting is available now on BBC Maestro.

"What are you trying to do with the portrait? On a basic level, you're trying to communicate something about the essence of who someone is. You're trying to figure out who they are, not necessarily who they present themselves as. The two things can quite often be different. And then, you're trying to find ways of showing that through their face, their posture, or any other context. My instinct is always to try to reduce down to the essential elements. We read faces. It's obviously very, very deep in our DNA, really our survival instinct. We are programmed to read faces in a very fine-tuned way.

Painting is a two-dimensional thing. You're basically taking real, three-dimensional things and making them into fake, two-dimensional ones. When you get into the 3D space, some of those distinctions aren't there anymore. I remember when I showed David Hockney the VR project I'd been working on a few years ago, and he put his finger on this quite well. Most art is about perspective. Certainly, for what he is interested in. As soon as you see something in 3D, whether it's a physical sculpture or a virtual object, that's not there anymore because you're in the space with whatever's being shown, so you're in a very different place."

Images courtesy of Jonathan Yeo

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