A flying visit to Accra by the shooting star of African art, Amoako Boafo, underlines the Ghanaian capital’s growing importance as one of the world’s great art destinations. Boafo returned briefly to his hometown for Accra Cultural Week (13-18 September), a series of cultural events including exhibitions, talks and studio visits that drew an eclectic mix of artists, collectors, gallerists and journalists from Europe and the US, as well as Africa. Boafo told The Art Newspaper that he was also in town to check on the residency he offers other artists at his purpose-built art space, dot.ateliers. In and Out of Time has been curated by Ekow Eshun, a former director of the ICA in London, whose family is from Ghana. The exhibition also features work by Boafo’s contemporaries Serge Attukwei Clottey and Gideon Appah. Like him, they have a substantial international profile. “These artists haven’t just come out of nowhere,” Eshun said. “Although they’re young, they’ve been working on their craft for some years now. There have been Ghanaian artists who have come before, but there’s never been a generation of artists who have been able to work with this proficiency, this ease, until now.”
At the pace the art business operates these days, summer makes a case for making space to scout the new and become acquainted with unfamiliar artists and their practices. While it’s still August, fall is practically here (get the beach days in!), and many galleries are closed to install their big September shows. So, reflecting back on what filled New York gallery walls over the last two months, CULTURED rounded up the names on our radar that you’ll be seeing throughout the rest of the year. Is it a veil? A painting? A tapestry? Araba Opoku’s tactile practice uses standard painting materials—canvas, acrylic—to embody the nature of water. Fluidity appears as an anchor in Accra-born/based Opoku’s practice. In this Untitled work, made explicitly for the show, anxiety and hope take form in a hallucinatory dreamscape of faucets and water flows; H2O is cast as both a force of life and death. With the art world’s current laser focus on portrait painters from Ghana, Opoku’s illusory representational style offers a unique take on realism, particularly amongst her peers.
Painter Gideon Appah’s studio in Ghana is just outside of Accra, positioned quietly by a small farm of pepper plants above which the sun was sharply gleaming when I visited. The two-story studio is a medley of rooms, each full of paintings that the artist had recently completed or left in process. Walking through the studio’s maze-like construction, I felt as if Appah’s liquid universes were blending: the blue sky in one larger-than-life painting bled into the sea in the next work, which he rendered without the usual mass of azure and instead in an icy white dotted with various darker hues. This flow throughout his studio’s sun-lit chambers allowed for a momentary escape from physical reality. Gideon Appah is the co-curator with Ylinka Barotto of Worldmaking, a group exhibition featuring ten emerging artists living and working in Ghana, on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York City until August 25.
From inspiring group exhibitions to invigorating new eateries, here’s our guide to July’s most exciting cultural and culinary offerings. In New York City, Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s summer show is turning the spotlight on Ghana or, more specifically, ten of the country’s most exciting emerging artists, whose work traverses painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation. Co-curated by Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah and curator and gallery director Ylinka Barotto, Worldmaking explores Ghana’s environment “in light of Western consumption, architectural influences that derive from years-long domination, colonial impact on ecosystems and economies, and the use of traditions as conduits to preserving the past and understanding the present”. Worldmaking at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York runs from July 13 – August 25, 2023.
In his mystical, jewel-like compositions, Ghanaian painter Gideon Appah suspends time beyond past, present and future. His intensely colourful canvases are populated either by nude or semi-nude figures languishing in a private eden, a tranquil, prelapsarian world, or by suited men smoking outside a nightclub, reflecting these shifting temporalities. These often fictitious characters, painted in varying hues of ochre and ultramarine, emanate from old newspaper entertainment columns and vintage Ghanaian film stills as well as the artist’s vivid imagination. Gideon Appah’s first UK solo show combines elements of Ghana’s postcolonial history with his typically vibrant renderings of otherworldly fantasy. The resulting paintings are “out of time, out of place,” he explains.
Gideon Appah is a Ghanaian artist living and working in Accra. His paintings feature dream landscapes and times that imbue elements of fantasy. According to his bio, he “prioritises atmosphere and the exploration of memory over faithful reproduction,” lending his works a surreal and expressionist feel. He is a painter aware of the potency of symbolism and references, and he intelligently deploys them in his paintings, scouted from sources as varied as personal memories, pop culture, film, black portraiture, colonial archives, Western classical art, and religion. His work has been shown in Accra, New Mexico, New York, Toronto, and has been acquired by the Absa Museum in Johannesburg, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Marrakesh, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah made his US institutional debut with ‘Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. His paintings hum with a surreal energy. His figures, Simon Wu writes, come across as ‘ghosts of clubbers in some primordial land’; certain paintings draw on myth, and incorporate symbols that evoke tarot or shamanic imagery. The influence of Black portraitists is palpable: men clad in white suits recall figures in the paintings of Barkley L. Hendricks, for example. ‘Produced quickly and at high volume,’ Wu writes, ‘the works have a provisional, immediate quality reminiscent of digital engagement.’ Indeed, Appah has drawn on a rich array of demotic sources for the newly-commissioned works in this exhibition, with characters culled from Ghanaian movies and Appah’s friends, set in locations that are sometimes ambiguous – as in the constellation-cum-nightclub of Remember Our Stars (2020) – and sometimes specific, as in Ghana’s famed Roxy Theatre in Roxy 2 (2020–21).
Gideon Appah is a master of romance. The Accra-based artist creates landscapes full of atmospheric elements: clouds, stars, expanses of desert—realms that have been described as “primordial” and “post-apocalyptic.” He populates these spaces with contemplative and unknown figures, perfectly poised members of the canvas who hang out or drift through. Appah first started working with Ghanaian newspaper clippings, but now he paints on layered canvas, a technique that sees him coloring from dark to light rather than from light to dark. The result is a muted, strangely disembodied color palette, one that seems to exist somewhere between heaven and earth. The modest and affable Appah, now 34, is making a splash in the art world. In 2022, he’s received solo shows at Ghana’s esteemed Gallery 1957 and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. With an exhibition of Appah’s recent works having opened last week at the Triennale in Milan, AIR MAIL catches up with Ghana’s hottest young artist.
When I looked at Gideon Appah’s paintings in his solo exhibition Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes at the Institution for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, I found gestures toward many things – with the dourness of his palette, the figures in suits smoking, the shy front-facing nude, the nude woman wielding daggers with her back turned to us, the dying (or dead) figure. In these portraits and other figurative paintings, there are allusions to Ghanaian cinema, with references to films like The Boy Kumasenu (1952) and I Told You So (1970). Paintings of landscapes and neighborhoods evoke the heyday of entertainment and film in Ghana, which spanned the 1950s to the early 1980s. And paintings of nudes leave us more than a little curious not only as to their stories but to the place of the individual against the disintegration of cultural memory.
For his first institutional solo show in the US, ‘Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes’ at ICA VCU, Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah presents a series of newly commissioned, large-scale canvases. In the first gallery, Red Valley and Ten Nudes and a Landscape (both 2021) depict hazy, magma-like landscapes onto which the silhouettes of various figures – dancing, reclining – have been lightly superimposed. They might be the ghosts of clubbers in some primordial land, or visions of future party-goers in a post-apocalyptic world.
Gideon Appah’s “Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes” at the ICA looks at death, myth and reality impacted by the pandemic. “Gideon started his career thinking about the rise and fall of culture, leisure and democracy in Ghana,” says Amber Esseiva, curator at the ICA. “He was looking at how that is reflected in news media.”
For his first institutional solo show in the US, ‘Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes’ at ICA VCU, Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah presents a series of newly commissioned, large-scale canvases. In the first gallery, Red Valley and Ten Nudes and a Landscape (both 2021) depict hazy, magma-like landscapes onto which the silhouettes of various figures – dancing, reclining – have been lightly superimposed. They might be the ghosts of clubbers in some primordial land, or visions of future party-goers in a post-apocalyptic world. Alongside these works hang three smaller paintings of mythic nudes: gods to occupy these otherworldly scenes, perhaps. Appah’s figures are usually composites of friends, characters from popular Ghanaian films and chance acquaintances. These paintings, which mark a departure from his earlier work about Ghanaian nightlife, increasingly incorporate shamanic or tarot-like symbols: The Young Minotaur (2021), for instance, who looks pensively off into the distance across a stormy sky, two fleshy skin-tone horns sprouting from his head.
In recent times, Gideon Appah explored the Ghanaian cultural memory through a series of portraits expressed through paintings, drawings and media ephemera. The primary source of inspiration was the legacy of the country’s film production from the 1950s to the 1980s. By employing entertainment posters, newspaper clippings, and films from the period, Appah has created a vibrant tableau that commemorates the cinema and leisure.
Ascendent Ghanian artist Gideon Appah is currently enjoying his first institutional solo show at The ICA at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. A plethora of new paintings, drawings and media ephemera make up the display, which aims to “chronicle the cycle of Ghana’s cultural memory – from heyday to bygone”. Appah has drawn on archive newspaper clippings, posters and films for the purpose, resulting in a series of dreamy, gesturally rendered tableaux that consider “the rise and fall of Ghana’s cinema and leisure culture”.
Artist Gideon Appah’s story begins with homemade comic books of dinosaurs living among people and the adventures of Night Man, his very own masked crusader. "He fought for justice, kind of like Superman or Batman," Appah says via teleconference from Ghana.
In a relatively short career, the West African painter has gone through many different stylistic phases, exploring — and combining — surrealism, nature scenes and portraiture. The 35-year-old rising star will have his first solo U.S. exhibition at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU this year from Feb. 11 to June 19. More than 30 of his paintings, most of them new works, will be showcased on both sides of the museum's upstairs gallery.
Cecily Brown’s new paintings, Sam Gilliam’s sculptures and monochromes, Gideon Appah’s otherworldly vistas, Tishan Hsu’s first museum survey and works from the Purvis Young trove.