Kwesi Botchway on the Importance of Painting Faces and Celebrating His Fellow Ghanaian Artists

Kwesi Botchway takes a moment to step back. The Ghanaian artist celebrates the opening of a new group exhibition at the gallery in Accra in 1957 together with his painter colleagues Amoafo Boako and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe.

The artists came together at Ghanatta College of Art and Design and are now pioneers of a new generation of West African painters. Botchway is known for his romantic figurative paintings and a characteristic deep purple palette that gives his subjects a quality of otherworldliness. The new work featured in the exhibition explores contemporary ideas of blackness and their interaction with West African cultural identities as well as the broader human experience.

We spoke to Botchway about the supplies he needs for work, the snacks that keep his studio running, and why he’s so interested in human faces in works of art.

Kwesi Botchway, Metamorphosis in July (2020). Courtesy of the artist and the gallery 1957.

What are the most essential items in your studio and why?

My brushes and my purple paint – that’s the basis of all my work

What is the studio assignment on your agenda that you are most looking forward to tomorrow?

Tomorrow I actually have a day off as I celebrate the opening of “Homecoming” in the 1957 Gallery, my new exhibition with my brothers Amoako Boafo and Otis Kwae Kye Quaicoe. It’s an important moment for us. We’ve all had amazing years and it’s so exciting to see where their careers are leading, but it has meant we have had less time to spend together.

Coming home is a moment for all of us to step back and take a look at what we have achieved – separately but together. It also coincides with the fifth anniversary of the gallery in 1957, so larger celebrations will also take place. I think it’s important to take some time to celebrate. As soon as I’m back in the studio, I mainly look forward to picking up the brush and creating again.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer in your work? Do you listen to music or podcasts or do you prefer silence? Why?

I like a little bit of music. I’ve been listening to Chronixx a lot lately.

What quality do you admire most in a work of art? What do you despise the most?

I’ve always been very interested in the human face in works of art. This is where we express our feelings and I think the core of what the artist is trying to achieve is here. Whether it’s a work by a French Impressionist or an African realist, I’ll look straight in the face to see how the artist portrayed his sitters and his own feelings through the expression of the work.

Kwesi Botchway, 2020. Photo by Nii Odzenma, courtesy of the 1957 gallery.

Kwesi Botchway, 2020. Photo by Nii Odzenma, courtesy of the 1957 gallery.

What snacks could your studio not function without?

Cashew nuts!

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers that you are following on social media right now?

Other than Otis and Amoako, definitely Ekow Eshun who was instrumental in working with me on my first London show last year. Also my friend, the artist Jenny Bastet.

What was the last exhibition that you saw (virtual or otherwise) and that impressed you?

While in London I was lucky enough to catch Toyin Ojih Odutola at the Barbican and Lynette Yiadom Boakye at Tate Britain. Both were amazing examples of how international artists reformulated black narratives within the art-historical canon.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it?

My mood board is really social media – this is where I get so much inspiration and even come up with some of my topics.

Homecoming: The Aesthetic of the Cool ”can be seen from March 25th to May 9th in the 1957 Gallery in Accra.

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