Art is the means of expressing any form of feeling and thought in my opinion. With my interest in art I have always wanted that authenticity to be portrayed.
I want people to see my art and recognize its source of inspiration, African culture. I want people to feel their connection with their ancestors, the present and the future of their children. This holds real meaning for me and every African or non-African that appreciates it.
By drawing inspiration from the imagery in African Culture and Religion I infuse my own uniqueness and extra layers of meaning to my art with emphasis on bold colors, abstraction and symbolism. I combine the flexibility of digital mediums with the originality of traditional methods to make them.
The themes that interest me are identity, connection, religion, depression and rejection.
Tell us about yourself- Where are you based and how did you first get into art?
I grew up in Accra, Ghana and my imagination led me to use flowers, plants, tree branches and other natural things around me to play. I imagined my own unique worlds right after i watched some cool movie on tv in the 1990s.
When I was little, I always went to my friend Prince Nuuno Mensah who lived close by to watch him draw cartoons and try to depict or recreate animations like Mickey Mouse. “He would just draw a giant Mickey Mouse and mount it on two stilts, we just had to imagine it animate. I think this was where my imagination was sparked. I realized that I wanted to do this, I always went to his house to watch him draw. He always encouraged me to draw and be fearless about it. One time he was painting a Ludacris portrait on a t-shirt and when I went there to watch he gave me the paint brush and paint to continue. I feared because I had never done such a huge painting before and I feared I was going to mess it up. But he kept emphasizing fearlessness in arts. He sparked my love for art. I started drawing comic book characters like spider man, judge dread and ninja turtles among others.
After my art studies in high school I noticed that I was drawn to fine art.
What made you pursue digital art ?
In 2010 I got my first desktop. It wasn’t easy to get a desktop in this part of the world. I started experimenting with illustration in Coreldraw. Gradually I found interest and got my first graphic tablet in 2016 then started painting in photoshop. While experimenting with digital art I noticed some kind of creative freedom and imagination I got as an artist which is different from what you get when you do traditional painting.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over the years?
My style is an amalgamation of surrealism, African traditional art, abstraction, portraiture, modernism, figurative art, symbolism among other styles.
I will describe my style as Afro-ancestral spiritualism.
Over the years while I explored painting themes and subject matter I gradually realized that my studies of the African culture and imagery was shaping a new kind of art in me.
How do your roots and culture affect your art, in practice and in presentation?
My roots and culture define my art in every aspect. In most African cultures including mine, death is a continuation of life. Things don’t end they continue to live on so death is seen as a journey. Everything is interconnected with some form of spiritual string.
Due to this when a person dies the African traditional forefathers who were curvers made masks to represent the dead in the physical world and refer to them as ancestors. People can invoke them through the masks to come help them solve certain problems.
The African masks in a way immortalize the dead. This idea can be traced to ancient Egyptians who buried their Kings in pyramids because they believed they go on to exist and live a separate life after death. They keep on existing in the form of these masks or other sculptural pieces. This is some form of immortalization.
I view myself as a modern African mask curver using modern tools instead of the wood they used in their time. I am trying to create some form of connection that can only be felt when you see my art. Some form of sacred bond to each piece. The interconnectedness of people, cultures, the past, the present, life, death, children, adults, everything in nature.
When you see some of my works think of a lost family member you loved so much. View that artwork as a representation of that loved one. Think of how everything in nature is related to each other in abstract forms.
Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations or artistic (or general) influences?
As a child growing up a lot of things influenced my style and subject matter. During my studies over the years in the quest of finding myself I realized that I had this transcendent connection with African masks, sculptural pieces and West African symbols like the Adinkra & Ga samai. African masks and sculptural pieces are my biggest source of inspiration. I feel a great sense of connection every time I see them.
What message do you hope viewers to gain from your artwork?
When I make art I want it to connect and identify with People’s soul. I want my art to depict the African identity, its influence and culture in the past, now and in the future. I want people to see some kind of thread that binds ancient, modern and future art.
Identity is very essential especially as a black man. Authenticity is also a factor it can only come from a place that you as the artist can connect deeply with which is for an African our cultural roots, family, environment and personal experiences.I felt that I needed to fuse African art with my personal experiences which in turn birthed a completely refreshing and unique look and meaning to my pieces.
What was one of your most recent favorite projects (ideally on MakersPlace) and why?
My most recent favorite project is Creation of Adamu.
The original painting Creation of Adamby Michael Angelo has the spark of life. The idea of creation of man from Christian perspective. It looks timeless and immortal I felt my rendition of it gives it some extra buzz. The connection between life and death is also a great factor here.
Who is an artist (dead or alive) that you wish you could collaborate with? Why?
I think some of the ancient African Curvers. I don’t know any of their names unfortunately because they didn’t feel the need to record their names they just curved masks and sculptures because they saw them as part of the spirit of their communities. Presently someone can steal your work so you need to add your signature.
On the other hand I would have loved to work with Salvador Dali.
What is a challenge you’ve overcome as an artist and how did you do it?
A lot of challenges, It’s hard to list all of them but the most significant is always being broke and everybody else around you perceiving you as a deadbeat.
Another is how hard it is to constantly keep yourself motivated.
I always imagined myself as the allied soldiers dropping off the shores at Normandy beach on 6th June 1944 as the Axis soldiers riddled them with machine guns. They had no option than to go towards the guns. Relentlessness and will power is what has always kept me.
What should we expect from you in the future? How do you see your style evolving in the years to come?
Expect more unique works from me. Works that will bend people’s idea of what to expect in an artwork.
I think I am still on the evolution journey with my art. Sometimes I don’t even know what my style will evolve to next. But one thing is for sure. They will keep getting greater and greater.
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