By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
An exhibition of artworks by Owusu Dartey, Prof. Edmund Tetteh and Albert Osabu Bartimeus – undisputed fathers of Ghanaian modern art – will on Wednesday April 3 open at the Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art in Accra.
Works by the artists – who are all deceased, explore their ability to describe and convey a sense of beginning, people and places – while highlighting their contribution to the development of Ghanaian contemporary art.
Whether referencing an identifiable subject matter / content or one that is conceptual / abstract in some sense, each painting encourages the viewer to contemplate and decipher the physical context in which the work was executed.
The works present a travelogue of locales, festivals, portraits and other thematic compositions. Indeed, they embody networks introduced by a new spirit of contemporaneity, material and political sensitivity while reflecting public engagements.
Visitors to the Dei Centre, which is located in Tesano (a suburb of Accra), are also expected to witness images that provide oblique references to places thereby facilitating an ability to imagine and reconstruct specific coordinates of the paintings.
Undeniably, Dartey’s (1927 – 2018) vast expanses of paintings present unobstructed views from seaside life and market scenes embodied by colourful rural life. Furthermore, many of the settings in which the figures are illustrated remain stubbornly elusive and transparent at the same time.
Subject matter by Bartimeus (1927 – 1988) is somewhat not so different from his contemporary but his technique and mastery over oil paint is enormously contemplative. Some of his subjects recede into the shadows of the enigmatic Ghanaian market life. Indeed, the prominence he gives to his paintings on fish underline the importance of fisher folk to development.
Master colourist Prof. Tetteh (1924 – 2007) projects the sacredness of Ghanaian portraits. The boldness in rendition of characters and strong brush strokes makes commonplace settings become extraordinary. His choice of colours – which enshrine a hallucinatory and technicolour realm – equally reveal nature’s beautiful embodiments.
Titled, “Owusu Dartey & His Circle of Friends: Albert O. Bartimeaus, Prof. E.K. Tetteh”, the exhibition equally presents a shared platform not only to celebrate but to also question their roles, how society perceives their contribution and its influences on their professional and personal choices.
The exhibition, which is being curated by Leroy Coubagy and Michael Martey, ends on Friday June 28.