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Going back to his roots

Creative: Owusu-Ankomah and right, examples of his latest work

INCORPORATING ANCIENT African symbols and male forms, Owusu-Ankomah has resurrected patterns from his past to create his latest exhibition Microcron – Kusum (Secret Signs – Hidden Meanings). The hugely popular West African painter explains how taking a break and going back to his roots enabled him to create his masterpieces.

“I had the feeling I was repeating myself, I wanted my paintings to have a deeper meaning,” he says. “I wanted something that would contribute to the evolution and the prosperity of humanity. I wanted to project and portray the culture I come from.

“So I sought out a style that was specifically Ghanaian, because in my earlier works, they represented ritual and initiation, but it was not particularly Ghanaian. Something was missing and I discovered it in the Adinkra designs.”

He continues: “They are symbols that were taken for granted and we are also afraid to touch because of their potency. I have used them because of the energy they have and their form. These symbols consciously awaken a dormant memory in us; awaken a form of consciousness, firstly in their beauty and secondly in their power.”

Owusu-Ankomah’s self-imposed exile from the art world in 2010 after almost 40 years of painting, also led to a life-changing discovery of a new art from and personal enlightenment for the skilled artist.

“Through my meditations and prayers, I had an epiphany of the simplest of all designs, which we see everywhere. That is the Microcron. It is universes in universes. They are ultra microscopic identities; it incorporates all things, which really excites me everyday because of its mind-boggling possibilities.”

More importantly for the Ghanaian, he has created each of his paintings with an unusual amount of love, not usually expressed by artists.

“Sometimes, I sit down and think about the Microcron. I get so happy that I fall into ecstasy; it gives me hope, strength and joy. I am totally convinced I created these painting with unconditional love and love heals.”

Although the 55-year-old has created art for the FIFA 2006 World Cup in Germany and collaborated with designer Giorgio Armani to develop a line of clothing, he says the demand for African art and artists is a fairly recent phenomenon. He recalls the days when art was not a respected profession.

“In the early ‘80s, art was not respected. The art scene in Ghana was non-existent and successful artists were very much unheard of. So in order to have a successful career I was sent to Germany to a family friend. I didn’t want to go to Germany at all. I would have preferred London. But after a while I got used to it. Bremen is a nice place with nice people.”

Owusu-Ankomah is also thrilled that his work is enjoying heightened interest in his homeland
“I had an exhibition at the Artists Alliance Gallery [in Accra, Ghana]. I sent about nine works and they have all been bought, apart from one, so there is a demand beginning.

“I belong to the second generation of pioneers, who made lots of sacrifices and stood up to ridicule and neglect, and are now beginning to experience acceptance in Africa. I am very happy to pave the way for the new generation of artists.”

* Microcron-Kusum (Secret Signs-Hidden Meanings) is at The October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1 until October 29. For more information visit www.octobergallery.co.uk

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