Asare Adjei draws his inspiration from old colonial photographs of Africans and art history to inform his beautiful and striking oil paintings.
He sees it as a task of helping to represent African history as well as highlight its bright new future.
The found photographs are re-interpreted and transformed into large scale artworks that are composed from the juxtaposing of monochromatic tones versus vibrant colours.
Asare says that his style is a visual representation of the deeper aspect of existence, which he views as a constant duality and a universal balancing act and union between two opposing forces (Light/ Dark, Yin /Yang, Male/Female… etc).
Some of the paintings feature nude African Women and Men who were captured in this natural form in colonial photographs and sometimes recent tourist images.
Asare eloquently explains as follows:
“There was a time when the photographic camera was a weapon used by imperialist powers to help subjugate Africa. The camera was utilised to target Africans and reframe the rich culture and traditions of the continent into a land of mere exotic creatures and ‘foreign’ people who needed help to become ‘civilised’.
In a way, my art is a response to this by way of showing a new narrative that focuses instead on the cultural appreciation of Africa and our Ancestors.
In my work, the Ancestral image is liberated from the shackles of the past and then presented in an empowering way which includes a timeless background protective space around him/her. The Ancestor is presented in a monochromatic fashion to represent the past and then juxtaposed against a colourful background that represents a brighter future. Occasionally, the situation is reversed. Overall, the original colonial gaze is transformed into an Ancestral gaze.”
Another striking aspect of his paintings is the unique style in which the forms are created.
Asare says that the triangulated forms are influenced by Ancient African fractals.
The use of African fractal geometry can be found all across the continent in everything from hairstyles, textiles, symbolic systems, architecture to artwork and religious practices.
These patterns also appear everywhere in nature.
The African fractal geometry also has political and social implications.
As a third child in his family, the number 3 has always held a special significance for Asare.
It also encourages him to reflect on Mind/Body/Spirit – Father /Son/Holy Spirit… and the pyramid triangle – a symbol present throughout Asare’s paintings thus bringing all these influences together harmoniously.
*This article originally appears in Art Capital Ghana.