Lawrie Shabibi presents The Soil From Which We Came, the first solo exhibition of Larry Amponsah (b. 1989, Ghana) in the UAE. The exhibition continues the artist’s experimentation, reconfiguration and modification of archival imagery through collage and painting, in order to evoke a deeper awareness of interconnectivity and focus on contemporary Black culture, identity, politics and history.
As a whole the exhibition can be considered a love story — one that explores connections: person to person, the inhabitant and the inhabited, and the relationship between things and people. It also looks at the extent to which one can pursue and push the possibility of painting and mixed media as an artist. Amponsah embarked on a journey to reinvent painting through a horticultural approach, which is full of vitality, hope and possibilities while confronting some of the unresolved questions of the language of painting, and the possibilities of representation in the history of art.
Central to the exhibition is Amponsah’s latest series of large-scale paintings, brimming with intricately cross-pollinated images seemingly torn from magazines and other media. Images of fruits, plants, vegetables and flowers that would normally seem difficult to intersect naturally are cleverly planted into each work. The compositions materialise from smaller collages which are scanned, digitally manipulated, printed onto canvas and worked on further using traditional painting techniques. Illusive to the senses, these works do not fall under the category of painting when looked at, and/or under collage when observed closer. They are neither shaped by reality nor fiction, but reside in the space between the physical and imagined. Amponsah’s visual approach has the ability to deceive, enhance, grow, revive, protect, invade, and blossom, just like the natural world. The result is a new series of dynamic, fluid, ethereal ecosystems within which the characters come to life. Amponsah invites viewers to immerse in this flourishing environment and to join his heart-felt discussion about the politics of representation and to rethink and celebrate the beauty of Black resilience, achievements and contributions to the world.
In his small portrait series, Amponsah deploys a succession of painting techniques on paper, meticulous layering and then re-collaging archival imagery to produce eminent yet unrecognisable portraits – blurring the lines between glossy contemporary depictions in print media and true identity. Similarly in his medium paper works such as Intellectual Gangster (2021) the artist adds layers through painting to create fluid and unique spaces for his characters. “My practice in itself has been deliberately designed to dissect some of the many key discourses of painting by way of complex layering or by reduction (simplifying) at times.” The layers give weight and depth to this body of work as a whole and enrich each character’s narrative, reference Amponsah’s upbringing and create a conversation about global Black narratives. With reference to materiality, identity and culture, this series displays a rich community of people that conjure notions of mystery, fluidity, complexity and independence.
Adam, the sculpture mirroring his latter works with fragments of ripped media, is embellished and overflowing with flora and embodying the idea of growth. In the context of the exhibition it is positioned to become both the trigger and interrupter of dialogues. This is not the first time the artist crosses the disciplines of painting, collage and sculpture, but he considers this to be the most dynamic.