Monday, 26 September 2011

Ofei Darko, one of Ghana's best artists, like the other artists I talk about in this Blog. Painter & Sculptor. 'Adoley' his wife, is also a fine artist.

Meditiation II, 2006, Acrylic on Canvas

His work on meditation is of faces, which are painted like masks, African Masks. Meditation the second already suggests there is a first prior to this one; at times it is a painting of great similarity and the painter has an expression in mind which he had not completed on one canvas so had to complete it on another.
Meditation II is a work of simplicity.  We have in the foreground the eight faces and in the background Adinkra Signs (Ghanaian symbols; each one has an individual meaning). Ofei Darko as an artist stated he wanted to do something different and his intuition led him to faces. According to Darko, in Africa we communicate through masks be it for masquerade/ festivals, a representation of a god, a theme or simply used for decoration.  And there are many faces to represent the unity Darko hopes for all of Africa being a follower of Nkrumah’s ideology. All the eight faces are in some way attached to the other next to it and from the second on the left to the end one, a curved line sweeps up from the lip of the face to create a line of composition of a forehead for the other 6 heads in the painting. The eye of the third head becomes the cheekbone and other eye of the forth head. And from the left eye of the forth head the dimensions of the sixth head is created. The curved lines which appear all over the painting, lets the viewer take in the faces as one before you later begin to divide them. It certainly signifies the impression of unity Darko wanted to create.

The other lines found on these faces are like those of so-called scarification lines, placed in certain parts of the face to accentuate the dimensions of the face like in sculpture. But in human faces it is to expose the beauty of definition on a human face. For example on the first face from the left on the forehead Darko paints four curved lines and as it in brown, a dark colour, it helps the artist to define the curve of a forehead; similar lines can be seen on the forehead on the cheekbone of the second face again reminding the viewer of the roundness of the cheekbone. Ofei Darko again uses three lines on the first face (on the left), just below the nose to create a separation between the nose and lips as well as shadow; because on a human face from the nose there is a drop before the lips poke out.
On the third face the lines are clearly used on the side of the face to indicate the sharpness but also a little depth to the face. When ones eyes wander to the heads of these faces, the lines help create an abstract type definition for the tops of the heads (of the faces). The heads seem a little open and it swirls a bit like the meditative mood that leaves the head and takes one to a higher level. These lines originate from the so –called scarification lines once cut into human faces and bodies with a variation of designs. Its significance was to accentuate the face and make it even more beautiful than ever. The designs of scarification have become decorations on sculpture and even print designs of batik fabrics. The practice of scarification can be found all over Africa at times body paint was also used to create these designs as a form of identity or during festivals especially a hundred or so years ago in Africa. Now the practice of scarification has been banned in most African countries but it can still be seen. Even on the faces of some Ghanaians till this day.

The masks are clearly in their natural colour, an oak brown and Ofei Darko uses cream to create light and shade, as well as blue to exaggerate the latter. These colours are repeated through at the painting giving it a sense of space and calm.

The faces all have closed eyes, very rare in sculpture but again reminding the viewer these masks are really a representation of real faces, long, sharp faces. They have closed their eyes because they are meditating; hence the name of the work “Meditation 2”. According to Darko one can see more with their eyes closed than with your eyes open. With ones eyes closed you can delve into your imagination (an artist’s home) and be wherever you want to be in a second and also create whatever you want to see. In all religions we close our eyes to meditate or as in Christianity, pray. It takes you to another level be it of peace or serene certainty. Our imagination is what most people use to create things we see in the physical form. Hence it is a powerful tool according to Ofei Darko and one has to agree. So maybe once in a while we all do some form of meditation.

The back of the painting is filled with lines of adinkra symbols and inspired by patterns of old Africans designs done in straight horizontal lines. Ofei Darko says this idea came to him after seeing the houses in the Northern Region of Ghana  and how much they still decorate  and also design with lines. The Adrinkra bits remind the viewer it is a painting from Ghana and Darko himself is a Ghanaian. The adinkra signs include the famous Gye Nyame sign, meaning Except God, to Sankofa, meaning go back and learn about your roots and take what is needed, Nsuruma, the star, a child of the heavens, and others.

Ofei Darko is a painter and sculptor in his forties; his works of faces are certainly very powerful. They catch you and grab your attention due to the strongness of them. Most are of real faces but there is a great variation in the works. His other works are equally as interesting and sometimes with his play of textures in some paintings one is reminded of ancient cave paintings, slightly Aborigine-like in image. He is certainly African it is deeply rooted in him and it appears in his works. One might look at the work meditation and think ‘Picasso’ but as confirmed by O. Darko himself, Africans have painted this way three thousand years before Picasso. In the West (Europe) Picasso helped to break set rules of art but he does not inspire Ofei Darko. According to the man himself he simply “lets the spirit guide him”.

There is more to come on Ofei Darko. 

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