Juxtapoz Magazine – The Storytellers @ Gallery 1957, London

Gallery 1957 is proud to present The Storytellers a group show featuring new works by: Annan Afotey, Patrick Alston, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Tiffanie Delune, Godfried Donkor, Salah Elmur, Gustavo Nazareno, Joshua Oheneba-Takyi, Yaw Owusu, Lauren Pearce, Afia Prempeh, Arthur Timothy, and Nadia Waheed . The show runs at Gallery 1957 London from the 26th May – 9th July 2022.

The art of storytelling runs deep in any society. Even before the written word, the oral tradition of telling tales and experiences to one’s community was a way to build solidarity among a given people, offer guidance and inspiration. It was an intrinsic aspect of traditional life. Using gestures and impersonations, a master storyteller would reveal to the audience crucial aspects of history, daily life and recent events, celebrating heroism, failures, love and victories – all with the aspect of teaching and commemorating important moments from a society’s shared history. It was a way to preserve one’s history, collective and personal identity.

Who are the storytellers today and how do they tell their tales? The works in the group show The Storytellers, which features new work by 13 artists working across the globe, demonstrate how today’s storytellers are also artists. They tell stories through visual depictions in both abstract and realistic form, relaying to the audience not only a personal or collective tale in time, but the emotional experience undergone during that moment. The tales that are portrayed here are those that the artist tells their family, friends and public and the experiences preserved through their art conjure up memories of fears, yearnings, joy and loss. The artist storytellers whose work is presented in this exhibition depicting a desire and need to document and hold on to contemporary life in flux, during a time of great change.

Their poignant portrayals, the majority of which are done on canvas with a few in multimedia, tell tales of profound personal and collective reflection through realistic depictions akin to photographs themselves, while in others through abstract and expressive portrayals that serve to showcase heightened emotional surrounding states a particular event or individual. In some cases, like in the work of Sudanese Salah Elmur, known for his endearing painted depictions of figures often from his childhood, storytelling is about remembering personal and public anecdotes about particular moments in time. Meanwhile, diaspora artists such as Patrick Alston, working in the United States reveals his tales through edgy abstract canvases and that of Brazilian Gustavo Nazareno is influenced by Afro-Brazilian religions that continue to be practiced today; and Tiffanie Delune’s transfixing abstract canvases that project her personal trauma and childhood experiences as if trying to heal, learn and teach something in the process of telling these tales. In Lauren Pearce’s large multi-media works and outdoor murals, produced in vibrant colors and which render at times portraits and other times abstracted subjects explore their identity and community. Lastly, Nadia Waheed’s work examines storytelling in a global and multicultural dialogue – much representative of the artist herself who was born to Pakistani parents in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia and lived and practiced in France, Egypt, Pakistan and now the US. Waheed now uses her global exposure to lay bare the intricacies of her female identity through large-scale allegorical figurative paintings, telling tales as an agency to connect with herself and the wider world.

The artists presented in the exhibition The Storytellers do exactly this. The breadth of artist on display in this group show testifies to the many contemporary artists now working out of Ghana in a variety of styles and mediums. From Afia Prempeh’s haunting realistic portrayals of Ghanaian women with their heightened attention to detail to Annan Afotey’s piercing portraits of Ghana’s men and women; Serge Attukwei Clottey’s poignant abstract expressionist paintings with their powerful figures; Yaw Owusu’s striking and scintillating mixed-media enembles that look to demarcate Ghana’s social and political systems; Godfried Donkor’s meticulously rendered figures that examine the socio-historical relationships between West Africa and Europe; Arthur Timothy, whose realistic canvases relay personal and collective recollections surrounding important events taking place around the time of Ghana’s independence; and Joshua Oheneba-Takyi, a young Ghanaian painter whose storytelling can be found in the way he merges abstract and realism – leaving the narration of each canvas within the subjective realm and open to the spectator’s own ideas of what stories he is trying to tell.

The artists in this show document through their works the colorful mosaic of their own diverse contemporary society and past histories, resurrecting the everyday individual and his and her stories to a local and international audience.

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