Kwesi Botchway, a distinguished artist from Accra-Ghana, spoke with Artnet’s Naomi Rea to discuss his current exhibition “Homecoming: The Aesthetic of the Cool” and why painting Black faces is such an integral part of his work.
Heavily encouraged to paint at a young age by his mother, Botchway’s journey with art began in childhood. He later attended the Ghanatta College of Art and Design, and recently continued his studies at the Academy of Visual Arts in Frankfurt, Germany. The use of color in his paintings is intentional and a crucial part of his portraitures, especially regarding the skin tones of the Black figures. Purple is the most significant hue, historically representing power and nobility. “I believe colors are characters, they have attitudes,” Botchway said in an interview with Vogue.
In his artist statement, Botchway states that his goal is to capture the “spirit, essence and heritage of his subjects and use this as an opportunity to lend the world a glance into the lives and struggles of people whose stories are yet to be fully told.” These striking and compelling figurative paintings convey deep, universal emotions where stories are revealed through the expression of the eyes, nose, and mouth. “His paintings are meant to trigger emotions of pride or shame, honor or disgust and sometimes even humor. It’s all about the story of his subjects, which words cannot fully explain,” reads the statement.
“Homecoming,” an exhibition at Gallery 1957 in Accra, features artwork from Botchway and fellow artist colleagues Amoafo Boako and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe. The gallery examines modern ideas of Blackness and how this connects with West African cultural identities and the human experience at large.
“I’ve always been really drawn to the human face in artworks,” Botchway told Artnet. “This is where we express our emotions, and I think the crux of what the artist is trying to achieve rests here. Whether it’s a work by a French Impressionist or an African realist painter, I’ll be looking straight toward the face to see how the artist has portrayed their sitters, and their own feelings, through the work’s expression.”
Homecoming: The Aesthetic of the Cool is on view until May 9th at Gallery 1957, Accra. Follow @Gallery1957 on Instagram for more of Botchway and other prominent Ghanaian artists’ work.