By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
Portraits with dark purple skins, pink lower lips and shaded eyes set against monochromatic backgrounds by Kwesi Botchway are currently on show at Gallery 1957, which is located in the luxurious Kempinski Hotel in Accra.
Employing deep melanin skin tones alongside sensuous sparks, his paintings vividly portray a dramatic new way of communicating colour consciousness while linking black with beauty, royalty, wealth, luxury and strength.
Undeniably, just as we were getting used to his portraits of elderly members of the society, Botchway has come out with a message that is powerful in colours and hues while homing in on the noticeable features of his community in Accra and beyond.
With a dramatic combination of 19th Century French Impressionism and contemporary African social realism, the young painter subtly complains about the aesthetic norms generated by non-black and black populations alike while imposing the real identity of black people.
These portraits together with their peppy eyes provide an insight into the lives of its subjects – told and untold stories, experiences and non-experiences, struggles and non-struggles as well as individual / collective hopes and aspirations.
His portraits appear to cry out for real or symbolic spaces of expression and specific attributes of social appearances alongside subtle undertones on political, philosophical and socio-cultural issues. Indeed, he refused decorative and distracting details thereby vividly sending out his messages.
With blue, red, pink, blue and cream backgrounds, Botchway creates a range of lifestyles, characters and perceptions while capturing the spirit, essence and heritage of his subjects. In the process, he provides viewers the opportunity to peep into their lives, troubles, challenges and difficulties.
Currently an artist in residence at Gallery 1957, he focuses on portraiture painting which he effectively combines with practicality and impressionism thereby forming a new visual language. His works have been exhibited in South Africa, Denmark and Ghana.
The exhibition is being curated by Katherine Finerty, an Assistant Curator and Communications / Development Manager at The Showroom, London – United Kingdom. Titled “Dark Purple is Everything Black”, it ends on Tuesday June 9, 2020.