A Bed of Roses, A Lesson of Thorns: Noldor Residency Founder, Joseph Awuah-Darko Unveils New Work in His Homeland, Accra, Ghana

Joseph Awuah-Darko’s pieces of art depict eccentric views of his ongoing battles with identity and mental health while also making allusions to the convoluted past of capitalism and system policing. Awuah-Darko draws inspiration from African literature, Ashanti poetry, and internalised cognitive “visions”, forged in the cauldron of a waking dream, played back to himself to represent periods of conflict or loving concord often. In the dystopian entities he refers to as Sentinels, which notably make reference to the Akuaba fertility doll from the Akan culture in Southern Ghana, his artwork represents spiritual symbolism.

©Joseph Awuah-Darko

The performance “A Bed of Roses” in Accra, Ghana, was formally inaugurated by Joseph Awuah-Darko. I refer to it as performance because Joseph Awuah-Darko always seems to have this internal dance going, caught between a rumbustious frenzy and a Straussian waltz, serving forth a kaleidoscope of personality and masterpieces.  Following a well-received exhibition at Gallery 1957 in 2019 and a brief hiatus to concentrate on the growth of his fellow artists by founding the Noldor Artist Residency, Awuah-Darko has continued his practice of abstraction and metaphor envisioned in his eight life-size tapestries and acrylic paintings.

On canvas, the artist employs multidisciplinary techniques that are inspired by regional poster design. The immersive tapestries are made using found plastic and a combination of European and Ghanaian basket weaving traditions. In recognition of its complicated relationship with the country, plastic material is intentionally used. His addition of satin roses is meant to highlight the figurative parts of the conceptual wholesale woven tapestries.

Within the four paintings and four tapestries is a work, Purslane War, which examines the debilitating rampage of mental health problems among people in black and African communities, uses unorthodox colours like black, yellow, and magenta to produce this vivacious, expertly crafted tapestry that actively examines the slope of internal conflict in an illustrated corrivalry.

Bourbon Stance is one of the artist’s most ambitious and large-to-scale works to date. The artist’s early childhood recollections of playing in his grandmother’s large garden are depicted in the pastel blue woven tapestry with 6000 handmade brown satin flowers. Joseph’s efforts to overcome his dire depression were boosted by the healing presence of his nan. The overshadowing figure wrapped in roses, assuming a dancer’s stance, takes his newly discovered freedom and delight, depicting his descent into the lower caverns of a depressed mind.

The Mix in Accra, Ghana is hosting a debut exhibition of the artwork. As part of a textile group show, a portion of this series will be on display at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami in April 2023 before moving on to Jac Forbes Gallery in Los Angeles.

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