Araba Opoku is a multi-disciplinary artist who was born and currently resides in Accra, Ghana. Her body of work ranges from dreamy abstract paintings to more specific projects, from her self-reflective works, to referencing socio-economic adversities such as the challenges in Ghana over the lack of water and the direct link to mental health issues within individual and familial frameworks.
“The mind is a map, an entire world waiting to become tangible in form, I explore how and why I want to make that possible.”
– Araba Opoku
Opoku’s art is not only concerned with suffering and anguish. Her commentaries on the water crisis also captures the freedom, joy, and abundance that water signifies, exhibited by graceful flows of paint and a plethora of colour. Her paintings in general reference her immediate environment by representing specific streets, home gardens, and daily scenes in the community she lives in. Characterised by fluid shapes, flowing lines, and blended hues which produce an effect that almost resembles richly painted textiles, the subtlety and precision of her art allows her to speak to the fullness of life as well as its decay.
Opoku takes a textile-like approach to painting, merging various forms and colours from the world around her onto her canvases.
Early influences derive from Araba’s mother’s association with the fashion industry – their home was always filled with an abundance of diverse styles and textured fabrics – and the encouragement of her school art teacher who recognised her talent for neat lines and creative thought. Balancing her art practice with her on-going studies in Psychology at the University of Ghana, her work was showcased at Art X Lagos in 2021, and resides in several collections in New York, London, and Ghana. For her artistic talent she was awarded the inaugural Yaa Asantwewaa Art Prize by Gallery 1957 in 2021, dedicated to woman artists living and working in Ghana. Opoku is also the creative director and member of the art collective Artemartis, which has done much to highlight and platform emerging artists in Ghana.
Gallery 1957, based in Accra, Ghana, has a curatorial focus on Africa and its diaspora. Presenting a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the continent’s most significant artists, the gallery serves as avital platform for promoting Africa’s presence within the art scene by hosting ambitious exhibitions, providing resources for residencies and participating in international art fairs. Founded by Marwan Zakhem in 2016 with an initial focus on supporting the West African arts scene, Gallery 1957 has since expanded to collaborate with leading artists globally and now hosts three spaces in Accra – one in the Kempinski Hotel and two in Galleria Mall – as well as a London outpost in Hyde Park Gate. See more details HERE.
Araba applies multiple layers of blue and green acrylic paint, introducing distorted subjects and texts that create an illusion of fluid motion and depth.
Curated by Katherine Finerty, the London-based Art Historian and Writer, Gallery 1957 announces its first solo exhibition of new works by Araba Opoku, running from September 24 to October 22, 2022 entitled “Whispers Down the Lane”. The immersive show presents new canvases alongside video projections, textiles, installations and sounds creating a sensory experience of the artist’s night-time vigil. Across an abstract, ethereal body of work, Opoku’s paintings of aquatic blues and vegetative greens subtly evoke her ritualistic experience of collecting water, which began when she moved to Dansoman with her mother and sister a decade ago. From awaking in a dream-like state at midnight to fetch water, to the stupor that continued the rest of the day, her work captures the warped state of life amidst water scarcity. Exploring this tradition across generations, the exhibition considers the effects of moonlight, the cyclical nature of being, lost twins and symmetry, the passing of transitory memory and constellations made from stars to spiders. For this new body of work, the artist turns towards these nocturnal creatures, connecting the intricate worlds she creates in her art to the expansive blankets ensuing from their webs; textile-like places that make you feel comforted and capable of imagining new and endless possibilities.
The subtlety and precision of Araba’s art allows her to speak to the fullness of life as well as its decay.
The artist’s process starts with collaged collections of everyday objects relating to her midnight fetching ceremony, from sinks and streets to plants and the moon. She then transfers these collages to the computer, creating warped compositions that serve as maps to her physical and psychological processes. When Opoku finally transports these sketches to paper, she relishes in pouring splashes of water and paint directly onto the canvas. This aqueous foundation is then built up through layers of acrylic colour and web-like borders, their undulating surfaces mirroring the effects of water with collaged details recalling our dream states. The end result of thickly layered paint and gracefully warped subjects represents water as both life-giving and an enduring source of uncertainty and suffering.
Araba Opoku Exhibition at Gallery II space, Gallery 195, Accra, Ghana 24th September – 22nd October, 2022.
Words: Shelley Campbell
Opening picture: Araba Opoku Headshot, Image Courtesy of Gallery 1957, Photo © ãNii Odzenma.