Ghanaian painter Kofi Agorsor’s work stands as a joyous expression of colour and form, gestural and at times abstract yet always so charming. The work is visually striking and modern; the paintings conjuring this feeling that they could elevate any a modern home whether it be in Accra, Paris or LA for that matter.
His aesthetic comfortably negotiating both occident and West African nuances, so delicately and expressively. On the one hand the paintings conjure an affinity to the work of the abstract surrealist, Spanish painter Joan Miró, or even Henri Matisse and perhaps even to the German artist Oskar Schlemmer and his futuristically magnificent Bauhaus sculptures as can be felt in the painting ‘Their Holyness, 2010’. His recurring theme and celebration of the female subject especially in its abstraction is a reminder of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s amusing sculptures.
Yet, on the other hand, his body of work recalls motifs uniquely found in the marketplaces of West Africa, and echo his love of the African voluptuous feminine form. Agorsor’s densely layered abstract paintings, appear woven with visual stories embellished as richly as a piece of Kente Cloth as in days of yore.
Traditionally cloth in Ghana wove not only colour and pattern, but also symbolised social standing, rank and philisophy. This act of woven storytelling through colour and symbol can be found in other prominent West African artists, from the graphic visuals of Nigerian painter Victor Ekpuk who combines Nsibidi signs/scripts into his compositions, to the sculptural installations of renown Ghanian artists El Anatsui and Atta Kwami. The former, utilising discarded bottle caps to make magnificently woven sculptures and the later, sculptures and paintings modernly inspired by Kente cloth patterns.
Though we see many possible influences in Agorsor’s work, these asides are by no means meant to define his inspiration or style. Rather we speak of artists that have gone fore, whose work and visual acumen we celebrate. If anything is clear, it is that Agrosor poses a unique quality to depict a modern vision of Ghana with an aesthetic style perhaps influenced by the past, but all together new. A Kente pattern called Emaa Da, sheds a little proverbial Ghanian light. Symoblising experiential knowledge, creativity, novelty and innovation the proverb goes, Dea emmaa da eno ne dea yennhunu na yennte bi da. Translated it means, What is novel is what we have not seen and heard before. Might we venture to then say that the stories that unfold on Agorsor’s canvases are indeed by definition, Emaa Da.
Kofi Agorsor (b. Akatsi, Ghana, 1970) an artist based in Accra, Ghana studied architecture though two years into his studies concluded that his passion lay in the Fine Arts. He completed his studies in Fine Art in 1993 at the Accra Ankles College of Art. Agorsor’s contemporary usage of bold vibrant colours reveal the daily lives of people in a modernizing Ghana, often in an upbeat and humorous way. His work has been exhibited throughout the African continent in particular west Africa in Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and also Zambia and has been shown in various international solo and group shows in Switzerland, The United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy, Germany and more. Agorsor is also an accomplished musician of Jazz, spending a great deal of time in the recording studio.
All images courtesy of the artist, Kofi Agorsor. All rights reserved.
Resource on Ghanian cloth and Kente traditions from the Akan Cultural Symbols Project at Marshall University.