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Security Guard's artistic dream becomes a reality

UP-AND-COMING ARTIST: Robert Badu next to his Metropolis Manners acrylic on canvas

LONDON-BASED security worker with a secret passion for art is realising his dream of turning it into a career.

Ghana-born Robert Badu has been drawing since his childhood, but never pursued his passion seriously, choosing to train as a teacher and then later taking up a profession in corporate security. In his spare time while previously working at Goldsmiths, University of London, he would draw. An opportunity to explore his passion further came when a colleague with links to the art world came across his work not realising he was the artist.

Badu has curated his work at festivals and exhibitions in Denmark, where he once lived, and in London.
But interest in his work took off in 2013 after he was invited to an art exhibition at Gold- smiths. There he met curator India Dickinson, who is now his agent and manager, and he began showcasing more widely at events including the FOURTH in Brixton, and Fly in Ointment at the Soho Revue.

He has sold a number of his pieces with some ranging in price from between £300 and £1,000. The artist has more exhibitions planned for this summer which include a solo exhibition, but he says his ultimate goal is to become a full-time artist. Although he never felt academically gifted at school, Badu developed a skill for capturing people’s moods and relationships through his art.

FANTASY

“I have dyslexia and drawing was the only subject I had an interest in at school,” he said. “I see things in pictures and don’t forget images. Drawing has helped me find empowerment, freedom to express my feelings and explore fantasy.”

Growing up in 1970s Ghana meant a career as an artist was not an option for Badu. “It was not regarded as a career choice, and my father actively discouraged me from pursuing art,” Badu said. “I wasn’t allowed to draw in the house.”

Despite the lack of parental encouragement, Badu taught himself to draw and used this gift to document anything and everything around him. He mostly uses acrylic, pen and ink on paper or canvas, and mixed media with strong emphasis on human characters with strong lines and patterns in his pieces. He describes his art as “chaotic harmony”. “When I draw – I see it on the blank canvas so I can’t sketch and reproduce a picture more than once,” said Badu.

“I feel the images coming to me on the page – they appear on the canvas and I fill it in.” He is inspired by Ghanaian textiles like the Kente and Batakari smock and African figures, such the Akwiaba fertility doll. Badu is fascinated by everyday people and likes to explore the idea of the whole community and individualism.

“It looks like everyone is trying to pose to get your attention in my art. It reminds me of an Akan proverb that says: ‘When you stand far it is like watching the forest. But when you get closer, everything is individual. Every tree has its own stand’.”

For more on Badu’s work, follow him on Instagram at robert_badu_artist

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