Featuring Annan Affotey, Aplerh-Doku Borlabi, Lord Ohene Okyerebour, Adjei Tawiah and Crystal Yayra Anthony, exhibition 18 (Rising Ghana) is a group presentation of five key emerging contemporary artists. Telling a story of self-expression and community driven support that extends out of Ghanaian domesticity and onto the world stage—the names in this exhibition were brought together in collaboration with by artist and curator Stephen Allotey. 

Amoako Boafo’s ripple effect can be felt the world over. From Accra to London, New York and Hong Kong the effect of Boafo’s portraiture has been felt and is inspiring a generation of artists. This exhibition looks at the legacy being created in Accra, heralding a new age in art from the African continent. Boafo’s Accra based residency has been featured in the art press to some acclaim, generating ripples internationally and raising questions about the role of galleries and the market in emergent economies such as this one. Rising Ghana showcases work by a key group of artists from the Ghanaian capital: Adjei Tawiah, Annan Affotey, Aplerh-Doku Borlabi, Crystal Yayra Anthony and Lord Ohene Okyerebour. Stephen Allotey –who has nurtured some of these artists as they have built on their practices– has curated this symbiotic group, some of whom have never been exhibited in the UK.
“I am excited for the opportunity given to my art family to share their talent with the rest of the world, and it is equally exciting to have my old friend and colleague Stephen Allotey –who is also an artist– curate this dynamic exhibition. While this group of painters are known for their portraiture and figurative work, what is interesting and draws me closer to their creative process is their use of authentic materials and their pursuit of distinct styles. This will help them develop their unique voices and will continue to support their creative development moving forward. I have had the unique opportunity to witness the growth of these artists up close so I am especially pleased that others will have an opportunity to view and experience their works as I have.”—Amoako Boafo

Subject to critical and market speculation since it began, Ghana’s current art boom began to expand globally in about 2015. In the wake of the international success of artists including Boafo, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Serge Attukwei Clottey and Kwesi Botchway, other artists have joined in creating a body of black portraiture that is changing representation in painting. In the words of Crystal Yayra Anthony: “What we are doing now is shining light on who we actually are. Because of things like Black Lives Matter and movements going on in the world, more eyes, or more people are open to listening to us, instead of just selling the stereotype that is already out there.” In creating a body of work that redresses the dearth of images of people of colour in art these artists are capturing a moment in time and in showing the full breadth of people living around them they are showing the true face of Accra to the world. This diverse group of artists shares a passion for bucking stereotypes to allow their culture to be truly seen.

While the Ghanatta School of Art and Design no longer exists, its legacy remains. It was there that graduates Boafo, Quaicoe and Botchway began to rethink contemporary painting, combining elements of the western canon with a contemporary take on African art traditions. Mixing the democratising thinking behind Realism and Impressionism with the profoundly subconscious composition and colour of African Modernism, these artists have created a movement that adds to the richness of its history. This thinking has gone on to inspire a number of trained and self-taught artists, some of whom would never have considered a career in art. The result is a capturing of society in Accra now through the eyes of artists who are just beginning to be internationally known, in tandem with the global art community turning to look at what is happening in the city. From many different walks of life and backgrounds this group of artists quite literally paints a picture of modern Accra.

Ohene brings the black interior to the surface on his subjects, Anthony’s expressive nudes, often placed in nature, hark back to a pre-colonial relationship with nudity. Tawiah’s touching portraits of difference combine paint and fabric, Borlabi’s thoughtful figures and muted tones bring a different register to the group, while Affotey’s bold contrasts and powerful gazes have a unique power. These artists communicate a shared credo through their varied practices. “It’s not a movement and it’s not a trend,” says Annan Affotey. This exhibition is not only a showcase of exciting painting, but is also a testament to the solidarity and support these artists show each other. Part of a new chapter in the history of art made in Africa, these works are a tantalising glimpse of what is yet to come.

Amah-Rose Abrams
February, 2022

Text source: UK’s New Exhibitions


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