Annan Affotey has an affinity for strong, bright colors that set his motifs apart from the negative space that frames their figures. Using gestural movements that sweep across the canvas, the Ghanaian artist makes intimate portraits of his friends, family members and occasional public figures who look directly at the viewer with distinctly red eyes, a decision that is both aesthetic and cultural.
“When I moved to the US from Ghana, I was often asked why my eyes were red and if that meant I hadn’t slept or was doing drugs, which was wrong. And it became a symbol of misinterpreted identities,” says This experience was further complicated by cultural expectations, which Affotey Colossal explains:
I want the topic to have a direct conversation with the viewer, which I couldn’t do myself a few years ago. I’m a shy person and when I first moved to the US I often looked down when talking to people. In Ghana, looking down means shyness or respect. After being in the US for a while, I finally got out of my shell and got more used to looking people straight in the eyes.
The artist, who currently lives and works in Oxford, prefers to surround his motifs with impasto lines, as they create liveliness beyond the expressions of the figures. “I use textures in my paintings for several reasons. One reason is to show energy or emotions that revolve around my topic, ”he says. “I (also) use a lot of textures so that people who can’t see still have the opportunity to feel the canvas, brush strokes and sense a story out of it.”
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