By John Owoo
The Loom Gallery in Accra – undoubtedly one of the pioneering promoters of the visual arts in Ghana, has consistently and persistently exhibited the works of female artists notwithstanding their background, country or culture.
Recently, the gallery opened its doors to Soma Sen, an Indian artist whose works comprise a dramatic fusion of the elements of Ghanaian and Indian culture that tend to reveal the simplicity and complexity of both societies.
Trained at the School of Fine Arts in Jamshedpur / Ranchi University (India) and the Ghanatta College of Art & Design (Ghana), paintings by Sen show her as an artist who makes a successful foray into sea / landscapes, open flora, abstracts, animal / human figures, still lifes and terra cotta works.
She creates interesting allusions to culture through a dramatic incorporation of Ghanaian and Indian symbols while touching on a wide variety of moods with a delicate use of colour. Consequently, she attempts to bring nature down to earth – indeed, within our own level of comprehension.
Her works are laced with diverse traditional Ghanaian influences including a heavy use of Adinkra symbols, symbolic colours and other art forms such as traditional music, dance, festivals and court practices.
In the process, she waxes freely between Indian and Ghanaian cultures by fusing diverse images, symbols, motifs and forms to deliver messages that can relate to people from both cultures.
She makes a theatrical use of adinkra symbols, sankofa birds and effectively extends them with symbols and other images from India thereby creating a cool amalgamation of two formidable and distinct cultures.
Colonial castles, takai dancers, bare chested footballers alongside peacocks, flowers, abstracts, land and seascapes with stylized clouds are conspicuous in her works, which combine to reveal an influence of diverse cultures.
A member of the Foundation for Contemporary Art / Ghana Association of Visual Artists, Sen’s work posses a quality of childlike wonder – nevertheless, rigorous social, cultural, environmental and historical underpinnings characterize her paintings.
Broad-brush strokes that end up as stylized human figures inundate her backgrounds and cloud formations. She wittingly allows a pronounced amount of light in some works thereby allowing them to sparkle.
Terra cotta works by Sen employ geometric shapes, flowery symbols and abstracts that are tactically placed to enhances their texture and heightens their visual impact while capturing the attention of the viewer.
Sen’s exhibition is the first following a devastating flood in the middle of the year, which dumped five feet of water in the gallery. The raging floods subsequently caused a fire that killed dozens of people in a nearby filling station.