I was glad to have a second chance to visit Ghana in November 2022. I had been there before Covid and had done a few studio visits of Ghanaian eminent artists and as always intrigued with the workspaces of artists, had planned to do the same this time as well, along with other activities. November and December were a complete art treat for me as there were many exhibitions taking place in the city of Accra, the capital of Ghana. Met old artist friends and met some new artists as well.
My first visit was to Larry Otoo Sir studio where I asked if he can connect me to some established artist from the younger generation and he recommended artist C-Kle . And thus, I reached C-kle studio where I got to know that his name was Clement Laryea and his signature or artist name was C-kle.
Clement Laryea known as C-kle is a Ghanaian artist born on the 15th June 1982 in Accra. He graduated as a Visual Art student who studied theoretical aspect of art. He then continued by learning fine art and sculpture designing through apprenticeship for five years. C-kle has a passion for painting, mostly portraits in an abstract style. He works in acrylic, oil and charcoal medium. He says his aim is to let the world know that if it can be done, then we can do it and his aim is to exhibit his modern African art all over the world.
An Art therapist, philosopher and preacher of art, he loves to help the less privileged ones. He creates inspiring contemporary art and portraits of people from Ghana, his home country. His work is sold throughout the City of Accra in tourist hotels, malls and galleries as well as internationally like The Parallax Art Fair in London and The Art Revolution in Taiwan. His work has given him continued exposure and sales throughout the world.
I was greeted warmly by C-kle . this was my first acquaintance with him. He looked very determined artist full of humanity. His studio was a separate room in the premises of his house, very much accessible at any moment. His artworks were very vibrant and as I spoke to him, I felt that his paintings spoke the language of healing
Thank you for your precious time. To start with, we would like to know more about you and your artistic background.
C-kle is my signature. You can call it my brush name. Without this name, you will not be able to reach my website. I am native Ghanaian and I call myself Therapist because I provide a variety of treatments through my paintings. Looking at my paintings people say that if this can be done then I can also do it. I send a message through my paintings. Clement Laryea is my name, C-kle is my signature and what really represents me is Art Therapist.
I completed junior and senior high school from 1995-2001. After a year gap I went into apprenticeship for 5 good years. I learned a lot there, like printing T-shirts, doing panels, doing photo backgrounds, video posters etc. I discovered impressionism after my apprenticeship in 2007. And from 2009 I started selling these works in hotels and galleries in Ghana. For 16 years, till date I have been painting and my works have gone all over the world. I am a family man with 3 kids and trying to build up a 2-storey building for my family which will also host a gallery and my studio.
A small percentage of my painting’s sale goes to the street children, the less privileged ones. I have been doing this for last 3 years. My purpose of painting is to touch lives through them. Humanity needs to be understood. We artists are so blessed that a painting can heal somebody. Once they are healed, they need to be fed and after feeding them I preach them, I teach them Gospel. This is about humanity and not about religion. Every soul is a soul. I want to go back and tell the society that if I can do it, they can also do it.
I normally gather unused clothes and then we move together with clothes and food to bless the needy, every Christmas. In fact, I plan to do this twice a year, one on my birthday in June and another in the later part of the year. But first I want to complete my building so that I do the charity work further with a clear mind. So, this is why I paint, to gather money and touch lives.
Ok, in short, we got to know what C-kle is. Coming to the artworks, how did you develop your style of painting?
Every artist needs to have a goal. I mentioned earlier about preaching the needy ones. I pick a word for e.g.; this piece tells you to be careful of what calls your attention. Think twice and concentrate. When I talk to people, I pay attention and take title from that discussion and I derive my subject matter from it. My original work can be recognized by the embossed marks made during the finishing touches to the painting.
How do you navigate the artworld?
There are thousands of artists in the field now and thus a huge competition. What I realized was, to some people its not about what they are painting but about who they know. People purchase as they know these artists. But as an Art Therapist I find my way out by doing something new. It doesn’t matter if I know the people or they know me. When you are doing something new, the world will look out for you. I know a quote which says that if you paint what you like, you paint for your soul but if you paint what world likes then money turns you. If you want to hit the international market, you need to be different and have to make sure that your painting carries weight, it has something that will touch the body, the soul and the spirit.
But how do you market your art? I believe you have social media presence.
Yes, I have a website. I normally post my artwork images on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. When people see the works, they come straight to the gallery where they are exhibited or they contact me. I communicate with a lot of people through social media which has helped me grow my business.
Are there any artists whom you are influenced by?
I do have a lot of influences. A Nigerian art collector based in USA has a great collection of artworks from different artists. Seeing his collection, I am able to develop a lot of ideas but that has not changed my art style. My technique is the same. Though I take ideas from different artists, my painting style, my brush strokes don’t change. I keep learning from the inspiration from around.
Are you looking at, reading or listening to music to fuel your work?
I am moved by music. I dance while painting as I enjoy what I am doing. When my kids are around while painting, we all dance together, it inspires me. I feel, when I love my painting, it is appealing to the world as well. My wife calls me a dancing artist.
How will you describe the subject matter if your works?
When I talk to people or when I preach, I take a title or a word from the discussion and derive my subject matter from it. I get my concepts from these titles. I keep a record of these titles in a book. For e.g., while you are talking to me, I caught a word “oh I see”. Now I will work around this word and try to build my painting around it. Life is all about a book with pages. You can’t keep reading the same page every day. Its an error. This is where I derive most of my subject matter from, which is something to provoke you, prompt you, push you, to alert you that its time, do it now.
Looking at your portraits, do you paint from a live model or do you have photo references?
I see a picture and I add a few stuffs to it. The color concept is purely out of imagination. Every artist needs to be creative. What makes me unique is adding more life to what I see. I spend most of my time in creating the pictures that I want to paint.
Can you share with us the process of your painting?
For my portraits I use scaling, by ruling lines making sure the portrait is correct. I normally use these lines because it helps me to get exact picture as I am more into portraits. I normally start with the dark portions and then I begin to apply the colors from my chosen color scheme. When I am done, I use palette knife for the final strokes which makes my painting “C-kle” painting.
You use a range of tools, like brush, palette knife, pens etc.
Yes. I want to try charcoal as well. Looking at my painting, I wish people should start thinking what all tools and mediums have been used there. I don’t want to do what others are doing rather would want others to do what I am doing and I would be moving to next step.
Do you work on multiple canvases simultaneously and do you work in series?
When you are trying to paint and you are getting what you want, it doesn’t mean that you should not paint again. You simply put that one down and start another. That is what strikes me to paint more than one canvases. I do like to work in series. I am trying to come up with a new series titled “Mental Picture”. People need to decode the mind of those who are very quiet by nature. Do watch out for this series.
Surely, my best wishes for that. Would like to ask the question which is asked to every artist, when do you know that your painting is finished?
This is a good question. A philosopher in me has a quote that says that the work done passionately does not necessarily need a perfect finishing. When I paint passionately, I feel the edge when I am done. Sometimes I feel this edge in 1 hour while other times I may get this in 3 hours or more based on how satisfied I am.
You are a studio-based artist. What does a physical space mean to you and how much time do you spend in studio?
Big and sufficient space is very important for an artist. Every now and then you need to watch the painting by standing back at a distance. My previous studio was just a quarter of what I have now but very soon I will be having my own gallery with a big studio. So, I think every artist needs a proper space for the studio. Since my studio is closer to my house and my room, I can say that I spend 23 hours in the studio. Studio is my friend and that is where I am based all the time. I also teach students sharing my knowledge to them in the studio.
Have you ever had to deal with rejection or have ever felt like giving up?
Yes, there were my dry moments. Some artists take prints of canvases and sell it digitally at very cheap price. That is the reason why people don’t buy original paintings and that’s the reason I hate prints. It was a dry moment for me when I almost made up my mind to give up painting but then I realized that there are trials and errors in everything you do. What keeps me moving is the reason why I started painting again. I started painting to touch people’s lives and now I can’t give up. That is what my subject matters are, wake up and show up. Now I think there is nothing that can frustrate me about painting. I am a full-time artist now.
Can you tell us where and under which Master did you do your apprenticeship?
I learned from an artist called Daniel Jasper, who does video posters, realistic posters. I studied realistic aspect very closely for 5 years but during the last phase he had to travel to USA where he spent 2 years. When he was away, being a senior apprentice, I got a chance to teach the younger ones and in the process I learned faster. People still come to my studio to get my guidance.
You are now an established artist; you have gained a lot of experience from the challenges you faced in your art journey. What are your thoughts on this generation of artists? Have you achieved what previous generation were not able to achieve?
What I have achieved so far from the older generation is the humanity. I have been privileged to get a lot of help from artists like Larry Otoo, Wiz Kudowor and many great artists because I am humble. You learn only when you listen. I take what they have in addition to mine.
So, the previous generation has been a stepping stone in your art journey. How has this country helped you as an artist?
Ghana has benefitted me right from the beginning. As an artist, who has works at prestigious galleries and selling every month, has been a blessing to me.
Do you think that Ghana has enough infrastructure to support the talent produced here?
I will say no, with an apology. We pay taxes as citizens and there are a few things that we need to benefit. There are so many talented artists but there is not enough space to prove our talent. We have just one National Gallery. Only if the works are mounted on the wall of the gallery, it will reach more people. When one person can do it, the others can do it too. By the time you realize we are building out something wonderful that will touch and heal the world.
What are your thoughts on the development of art scene in Ghana?
It is far better than before. In older days people were not privileged to go to art school, art opportunities were few. I can now fully depend on art unlike old days. Art has changed in our generation. I believe that if you are able to do something that can touch lives, it can feed you throughout your lifestyle. I keep saying this as an Art Therapist. I don’t chase money, what I look for is people’s challenges, needs, problems. If I make sure that I am able to meet their needs then my services are paid. In short art scene in Ghana right now is good.
Apart from the gallery that you are building, what are your upcoming projects?
I don’t want to look into one bottle with two eyes. The ongoing project has to be completed first and that needs my concentration. My next project will be building a number of houses and renting it out. These paintings do pay all the needs but I believe I must have some properties that can feed my coming generations. I think I will be fulfilled when I am done with this.
Ok, so that is your life plan but coming to your art, will your art be seen elsewhere apart from the gallery that you are building in future?
Yes, I do look at different avenues for exhibition to let people know that these works can be found at my gallery as well.
Are your works into international market?
Yes, I have been exhibiting for last 3 years. In Parallex Art Fair, London and in Taiwan as well. My works are going to Ohio, USA. I have also been featured in different art magazines.
Through Face Book. The world is looking for something different. If you are unique in your own way, God shows you a way connecting you to the people.
Have you participated in Art Fairs and Residencies?
I exhibit all over. As long as networking is concerned you need exhibitions, art fairs. I made a lot of contacts through these. I haven’t had a chance of art residency. I have applied a few places for the same and hoping to get into one very soon.
My best wishes for the same. You are now established by overcoming all the challenges in your artistic journey. Based on that, what will be your piece of advice to the emerging ones?
I have very simple advices: first is know God, don’t do bad things. Know your work and it will be paid. Second is keep moving ahead. No matter where you are and what your surrounding is, keep moving through all the challenges. Third is bless the needy ones from whatever you get out of your painting, make sure they benefit from it.
Thank you, C-kle for this friendly talk. I wish you the very best for your ongoing and upcoming projects.
Born on 15th June 1982 in Accra, Ghana, C-kle lives and works in Accra. His works can be viewed on his website: https://c-kle.webs.com/