My first ever exhibition was in Accra, Ghana in collaboration with artist Anane Asare. He was my mentor for that very exhibition. He taught me how to approach the gallery, how to come up with the title of the exhibition, which works to display and how to display and all the aspects of the exhibition which I wasn’t aware of since that was my first time. Unfortunately after that exhibition we were not in much contact so when I was planning the studio visits during my visit to Ghana, I decided to contact him unsure whether I will be able to as I had no contact with him. But thanks to my friends Ato and Adwoah who made it possible.
His studio was very much in the city. It is actually the premises of Ghanatta college of arts which is now closed. Asare visited this college quite often when it was running . The principal of the college was a good friend of him who generously allowed him to use a few classrooms as a studio after the college was shut down.
Being a closed down area there was wildly grown grass in the premises which gave a deserted look. Anane has a student (whom he mentors) who guided us to the studio which was on the 1st floor. The paintings placed all around made the corridor a lively place. Surrounded with lots of canvases still in process and some wooden benches and tables around, that corridor gave a positive feeling. I remembered the domination of earthen colours in his paintings. The use of lines , the architectural values and also some Ghanaian symbols used had peaked my interest in his paintings.
It was a great pleasure to meet Anane Asare after such a long time. Initial few minutes were passed talking about our lives after the exhibition. He was happy to hear my progress in art. After snapping a few pics we started informally, him saying ,”Time doesn’t wait for you”.
Thank you for giving us time to visit your studio. It is my great pleasure to meet you after such a long time.
We would first like to know a little about the initial days of your artistic journey. How and when did you came to know that you will be an artist?
I started very early when I was about 6 years old. I tried to copy the portrait of Elizabeth, the British Monarch which hung on wall in my house . I did that with chalk on ground and then had a big fight with my elder sister since she poured water on it. But one of my teachers saw it after it was dry and was shocked that I could do such good drawing. Thus I started drawing right from school daysbut all I use to draw was boxers. I did my schooling in Asim boys School in Kumasi and went to graduate from University of Science and technology , Kumasi but left unfinished. I did take some formal tutoring from some good artists like Mr Atoo Delaquis.
I had always been a drifter so kept quitting. I traveled from Ghana to Ivory Coast but it didn’t work so went to Mali, didn’t work there too . Settled in Senegal where with acquaintance of Minister of art and culture entered school of fine arts.Had really god friends in the college.Especially a friend called Appolinaire Senghor helped when I was homeless. Learned a lot from these friends.
When and where was your first exhibition?
First exhibition was in Senegal which was a group exhibition. Senegal was to hold an exhibition which hosted 72 nationalists. There was an opportunity for me to rise and shine. In those days I read a lot of books. I was getting spiritual. So when I got this opportunity I had already decided the title for my artwork which was KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. The artwork was praised highly. Senegal was where I was at peak as an artist. I also worked at United Nations where I illustrated a manual on population growth. After this I had a lot of exhibitions in Senegal out of which was an exhibition on Human rights on Gorec Island. I returned to Ghana in 1996. I had my first solo at Alliance Fransaise and also exhibited at Artist Alliance Gallery several times.
How do you market your art and what are the ways you navigate into the art world?
Marketing the art is not easy. Only hopes have kept me going. I navigate only through exhibitions and contacts. I am not a tech savvy guy , hence do not have ant social presence but my friends and well wishers are helping to create social media contact.
Which artists have influenced you in your artistic journey?
Artists like Kofi Dowson, Wisdom Kuduwor and Prof Ablade Glover have inspired me a lot in my journey as an artist.
Let us know a little about your creative process . How did you develop your style?
While in Senegal , I had a lot of books from my friends . Thus I read a lot. I painted whatever came to my mind. It was something spiritual that was waiting for me. My mother was old , I always use to think of my mother and the rest of the family. I went on painting whatever came to my mind. I didn’t bother about my eating , I didn’t care how many canvases I was using , didn’t care how much time I was working. I was determined to get my style . Thus in this process I created KNOWLEDGE IS POWER which was praised at my first exhibition. And that's how I got my style I believe.
I always do the background first . The images that came to mind are then infused on the canvas.
I have noticed In your paintings a lot of earthen colour. What does it specify?
It represents the mood, the environment, the meloncholyness. Surrounded by good people opens my heart easily and then there is the flow in the painting.
Which medium do you work with? Do you paint in series?
I have tried all mediums. After coming to Ghana I have used more of acrylic colours.
I don’t force myself to paint in series. Sometimes I like to work that pleases me while sometimes people may not like the work already painted and then they commission the work they desire.
How much time you spend in the studio? When do you know that the work is finished?
The whole day. When bored I go out to get rid of my boredom.
My works are never finished . I can always come back and add something .
What are the things that you get inspired from? Do you read or listen to music?
I watch TV, love to watch love to watch Aljazeera documentaries. I admire Indian architecture, valleys. I read a lot of books and listen to Jazz.
How do you see art in Ghana? How is the artist community in Ghana?
Ghana is culturally very active but talking about the contemporary art , it has a long way to go.
How is the artist community in Ghana?
It is ok. We do meet at Artist Alliance but we don’t really discuss art. Prof Ablade Glover united artists. In my view he is the Godfather of Ghanaian contemporary art.
What do you think of art funding?
At the moment the Ghana government is not funding art. Ministry of art and culture are into the process of helping the artists.
What does having a physical space to make art in, mean for your process and how do you make use of it?
Its always good to have a physical space for painting. I can even live here if I want to. When this College was running , I volunteered to teach here. The Principal , who is the owner of the school loved me. They do visit here to see me painting.
Have you ever have to deal with rejection?Have you ever given up?
I did initially, but I have never given up. No, never. I go on very confidently , even after lots of ups and downs.
What are your upcoming projects?
I will be having an exhibition on Architecture design. When the series is half done, will start approaching the galleries.
What is your opinion about the art fairs?
I do not have any interest in Art fairs and so cannot comment on this.
Can we have a piece of advice for the emerging artists?
Well, I would just like to say that keep working and one day your work will define you.
Artist Anane Asare lives and works in Accra, Ghana. Though he doesn’t have any social presence he mentors a student who assists him with the social media. His works can be found in local galleries in Accra,Ghana.