An inside look into life in the ghettos of Ghana and a glimpse at the themes that typify these places, is what visitors to the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg can expect from Between a life and its dream (Scrawl paintings) – the gripping solo exhibition of 2015 L’Atelier Merit Award winner, Gideon Appah.
Described as an urban artist, Appah’s works use mixed media, predominantly paint, salvaged objects, collage, mark making and text to reflect the more gritty side of the world around him in one of Africa’s most vibrant and dynamic capital cities.
“I draw inspiration from temporary and permanent mark makings, which I find interesting in their own subtlety. A lot of the content I use is gathered from townships in Ghana. Items such as labels from carton boxes, posters, lettering, photographs of drawings on walls, informal signage, imagery, stains and lottery numbers on the lotto kiosks that are scattered around the country,” Appah explains.
His works are a continuity of the metaphor between abstract painting and the visual world, and act as commentary of his personal thoughts on the nature of the deterioration of Accra’s urban landscape.
Appah’s highly original pieces reflect themes around intimacy, wealth, satisfaction and pleasure because, he says, these are the often downplayed realities of ghetto or slum living, especially in Accra and similar cities throughout Africa.
“I sought to magnify these issues and give them a voice,” he adds. “I had a very lively experience in one of Ghana’s most infamous slums, Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra, and following that found a burning desire to ‘paint’ a different picture of my roots, transubstantiating that beauty out of decay in some way.”
Appah’s creative concept – these so-called scrawl paintings – became a platform to communicate and bind all these singular contents into one. His works have been described as being ‘as radical as the characters you find in the ghettos and slums of Ghana’.
It is a snapshot of these works that visitors can expect to see in Between a life and its dream (Scrawl paintings), which comprises a series of works on paper and works on canvas. The exhibition forms part of Appah’s prize for winning the Merit Award in the 2015 L’Atelier art competition, and is another example of how the competition seeks to further the profile and exposure of the young and emerging artists who participate in this renowned event.
The exhibition runs from 19 March to 20 April 2017 at the Absa Gallery.