Credits Aurélien Mole
Treasures of Time
Kofi Awuyah solo show
Nov 22 - Dec 14, 2022
81 boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris 3
“When you look at a African traditional mask you see not only the horror aspect of it but the beauty aspect of it as well because we see horror and beauty at the same time, creating a distortion...Looking at the surface of a painting you see three four layers at the same time, and this applies to the human face. You can read so many emotions on someone’s face and what lies behind the exterior they portray?”
Kofi Awuyah studied art at the Vision Art College in Accra after realising that the business degree he had already earned was not going to take him on the path he was meant to be on. Since then, he has exhibited in Denmark, Togo, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and in Accra Gallery 1957. Known for his large compositions and experimentation with texture and surface Awuyah is a strong presence on the Accra art scene.
Awuyah has recently taken his work in a new direction. Known for his large, figurative compositions of people and his trademark use of surface he has taken his latest series to a new place aesthetically and in its inspiration. In his earlier works Awuyah would mix water with the top layer of acrylic paint creating a mosaic-like separation of the paint and the water, in Treasures of Time he paints those lines in oils strong thick and black. He is influenced by Picasso and sees his work as building on the inspiration the Cubist took from art from the African continent. He is inspired by the city he lives in, its red clay, its mosaics and its urban buildings, and transposes these ideas onto the figures in his paintings.
“As you go through the streets of Accra; you see old, rusted buildings. The cracks, the patterns, the lines... You see the shades of red and the breakages. They resonate with me. With mosaic, it was developed by Africans, we discovered mosaic and it is all around us as Africans.”
This series of paintings sees the artist, who is a parent, sees him tap into a childlike quality for inspiration as he further abstracts his work aesthetically deconstructing faces and flattening perspective. In pushing the abstraction in his paintings further Awuyah is looking beyond the façade we present to the world, amplifying the hidden complexities that lie beneath our expressions.
“I wanted to do something that sort of bring out something childlike and I wanted to use materials that connect me with my inner child; paper, crayon, charcoal...you name it...One interesting thing about a human face is it has a lot of diversity as a subject; somebody can be smiling on the outside but on the inside it’s a different thing altogether. I choose to focus on the face, and I continue to play with it.”
He is methodical about composition, at first sketching an outline in acrylic paint in black and white before experimenting with colour in an ebauche which he then covers in a final coat of oil. Completing the underpainting in acrylic allows him to work more spontaneously before applying the final layers of the works in oil.
This series of imagined characters look out at you from their canvases, their complexities flickering out at the viewer through the kaleidoscopic lens Awuyah applies to their personalities. In bringing together aesthetics of African and Western art he has created a visual language of his own that he is pushing in an exciting direction.
Amah-Rose Abrams, November 2022