The Evening Standard profiles Jonathan Yeo on the news that his portrait of David Cameron has been auctioned at a Conservative party fundraiser for £200,000. Of course, the profile can’t escape the dichotomy of Yeo’s being well known for his portraits and his collages made from pornographic images:
“There’s a queue to buy the collages, whereas I have to graft a bit to sell the portraits.” And if anything, this more controversial work has widened the audience for his oils. “The only job I may have lost was painting the Archbishop of Canterbury,” he says. “We were down to a shortlist of two — but the porn may have not have been the deciding factor.” It was the commissioning process that would lead to George Bush becoming Yeo’s first collage subject. Having been selected, “I was made to jump through hoops, sending endless sketches and CVs, dealing with the White House and the immigration department. Clearly, the assumption was that Bush would lose the 2004 election — because when he won, I never heard another word.”
In what he admits was a “schoolboy gesture”, Yeo rendered the president in his new medium — and discovered an untapped well. Next came the obvious subjects, followed by anonymous nudes whose elegance and purity are cleverly subverted by the stuff from which they are fashioned, and vice versa. While the wallpaper, being purely decorative, is another twist on this theme. It can be quite a shock for work-experience assistants who arrive “expecting a Renaissance set-up, where they’ll be grinding pigments, to be confronted by a pile of old Hustlers and handed a pair of scissors”.
Jonathan Yeo Goes from Porn to Politics (This Is London/The Evening Standard)