Studio Visit Conversation With Kofi Awuyah
Kofi Awuyah (b. Accra, 1988) is a Ghanaian artist whose practice includes several mediums such as painting, sculpture and installation. He explores a range of themes from culture to religion, politics, human existence and death, with predominantly the use of acrylic, oil and charcoal on canvas. After high school, Awuyah enrolled in Business School. However, as he was spending all of his time painting with local artists, he eventually changed direction and decided to fully dedicate to the development of his artistic career by studying Fine Arts at the Vision Art College. Kofi does not merely mirror the socio-political realities that surround him, he instead engages and challenges them with his work by daring to confront difficult themes such as his community’s oppression over the years. He has had exhibitions in Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast and Denmark
Could you tell us about yourself and what art is to you?
I’m Bright Klenam Kofi Awuyah, best known as Kofi. I am an expressionist, figurative and abstract artist with exhibitions to my name such as; Will It Ever End? and Treasures of Time which is still holding in Paris. To me art is everything.
How did your art journey begin and at what point did you decide to make it professional?
Though I had self awareness from an early age on what I desired to become, I took on different paths until in 2004, my uncle took me to a gallery ‘Artist Alliance’ where there was an awakening and a rebirth to do what I love to do best.
Who are the artists you look up to first in Africa and beyond?
In Ghana, I take inspiration from pioneer artists like Professor Ablade Glover, Kofi Agoorzor, Kofi Setordzi and Mark Bradford, Stellin Rueben and George Condoh on the international level.
What keeps you inspired?
For me, aside taking inspiration from these artists, my emotions direct me in my path of painting. Using music, I express myself best by tapping into my emotions and reliving every scene I create.
Your earliest memory of art?
As a young Ghanaian boy growing in the capital, the city walls were my canvas. After school, I would move with friends to paint and draw billboards of films yet to be shown in the cinemas and that brought me fulfillment.
What does your art talk about and are there any elements of your life that affect your art does your art?
I employ five elements throughout my works; music, history, religion, lifestyle and politics, I use abstractions in my paintings to evoke a strong emotive response to historical, ethical, cultural and religious questions from my audience. I am a Christian who communicates and keeps a close relationship with my maker.
What would you say is a major challenge facing artists on the continent right now?
Currently, I have a strong footing on the Accra art scene and yet, I find it challenging as a young artist to soar high in Ghana. From my perspective, promoting and selling one’s works can be arduous and demanding; resulting from the fact that there are few galleries in the country, from a lack of knowledge of art from the general public and from lack of investors. I also believe the artist can do more through research, studying and training under top tier artists. Forums on art should be held often to educate the public on the art sector and invite investors into the sector.
How does it feel to now take exhibitions all over the world ?
My first major exhibition was held with Accra City Hotel (Novotel Hotel) in Ghana. From there, I exhibited in Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Denmark and Paris.
My first international solo show was held recently in February, 2022 in Gallery 1957. It was titled Will It Ever End?….
Exhibitions bring me fulfillment. A way of letting people in on my thoughts and emotions and being seen for what exactly I stand for is everything to me.
What is your vision for change in the creative industry?
Personally, I lacked guidance and opportunities in my early years and that is why moving forward, I aspire to build a creative art school to give the opportunity to upcoming artists who need guidance and directions to help bring out the best in them. I believe a sale of one million dollars would be sufficient in building a school to help change the face of art in Ghana.
As an artist, I believe there is no limit to art.
Being innovative and original in one's work would help put you on the map.
Lastly, what is next for you? Are you working on any new projects?
I presently have exhibitions ongoing in Paris and other future events in Miami by the close of the first quarter of the year. I believe the artworks are bold and profound and I hope to reach many parts of the world with my work.