DUBAI: Despite the Art Dubai’s Residents exhibition forced to halt due to safety precautions during the international coronavirus pandemic, six artists from around the world were already hard at work on their new creations before the strict measures came into force in the UAE.
Gideon Appah, a Ghanaian mixed media artist, paints and collages archival prints, posters and photographs to produce narratives that blur the line of cultural understandings of social relationships.
“Since 2018, I’ve been working with more archival photography, old newspaper articles, stills from Ghanaian movies,” explained Appah. “I’m interested in dramatic portraiture, comparing the 70s and 80s to the present.” Activating what he calls a “radical experience,” his body of work, and the paintings created during the residency, play with what the viewer can, or cannot, see through the layered techniques to reveal a “ghetto, low-pop” cultural view of Ghanaian society. “Some are fictional, I’m not too strict, but I want to play along with setting the sensual culture from way back,” said Appah, noting that the material also includes known and anonymous letters and diaries. “When you talk about Africa, people don’t talk about romance, but Africa has a lot to show when it comes to love! Not in the way other cultures show it, but through an old-school style, we do it.”
Remaining true to his style, passion for mixed media techniques and basing his real life themes on real life photographs, Appah observed that no artist leaves a residency unchanged. “My paintings speak a lot to scale because in the 21st century, it plays a major part in contemporary art and though not a lot has changed for me, the size of my canvas is challenging me to work in a certain way,” he said, observing that the experience, supported by Tashkeel, Dubai’s multi-disciplinary studio, workspace and gallery, has seen him experiment more with color. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his love, and inadvertent homage, to the innate sensuality of his culture, which he reproduces with abstracted simplicity. “I’m into portraiture — showing, without too much detail, what’s happening in the face, the body, with people’s desires, love, being provocative — but not glamourizing things,” he said.
*Gideon Appah is represented by Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana.