Kwesi Botchway creates intimate portraits that capture the fluidity of Black identity. Using acrylic and oil on canvas, Botchway visualises contemporary African culture through richly coloured and emotionally charged paintings.Read More
Born in Accra, Ghana, Kwesi Botchway took an interest in painting from a young age. Portraiture fascinated him and in school he would sketch his teacher's faces while they taught his class. Botchway's mother encouraged his curiosity by organising an apprenticeship with a street artist when he was teenager.
Botchway went on to study at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design. During his studies, he met fellow contemporary painters Amoako Boafo and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe. Botchway also attended the Academy of Visual Arts in Frankfurt, Germany.
**__**Kwesi Botchway's painting combines features of realism, impressionism, and self-stylising to form a visual language that he refers to as Afro-Impressionism. Used as a tool to honour and celebrate Blackness in contemporary culture, Botchway's Afro-Impressionism provides a platform for Black perspectives.
Afro-Impressionism's characteristics include deeply textured features and contrasting colour schemes. Botchway's art movement represents the energy and emotion of his subjects by painting them in poised compositions wearing luxury fashion against monochromatic backgrounds.
Botchway is interested in the emotional play of portraiture. By expressing the subject's character, culture, and community, the artist's paintings establish a discourse between the subject's message and the viewer, compelling the viewer to become physically and emotionally invested in the subject's story.
Fashion plays a crucial role in the artist's practice and contributes to his subject's depth of character. In many of his paintings, Botchway features Converse trainers, branded caps, and sunglasses, juxtaposing them with traditional African textiles. By merging the contemporary with the traditional, Botchway creates a developing definition of what lifestyle and culture means today.
In this body of work, Botchway uses the colour purple to reconfigure perceptions of beauty and communicate an alternative colour-consciousness. Traditionally, the colour purple connotes royalty, wealth, power, and luxury. By using purple to depict skin colour in his paintings, Botchway connects the idea of Blackness to a history of aesthetic beauty.
Botchway's series depicts a mixture of friends and strangers with red eyes that collectively gaze at viewers from vivid backgrounds. Botchway wants viewers to connect with his subjects, stating, 'as we peer into these piercing, bright eyes, we indeed may perceive windows into other souls, pools of radiant energy, individual struggles, and collective hopes.'
In this series of work, Botchway explores the changing nature of identity and how it relates to racial representation and contemporary perceptions of beauty.
The paintings reflect on the turbulent COVID-19 pandemic and a time of global racial and political unrest. In the work blacklivesmatter (Divine Protesting) (2020), Botchway paints protesters proudly holding up banners and signs promoting the Black Lives Matter movement against a deep yellow background.
In 2019, Botchway was nominated for Influential Artist at the GUBA Awards in the United States.
Botchway is the founder of Worldfaze, an organisation based in Accra that educates and encourages young people—often from troubled backgrounds—to pursue a career in the arts.
Kwesi Botchway has exhibited widely, from Accra to London, Denmark, and Cape Town.
His solo exhibitions include Dark Purple is Everything Black, Gallery 1957, Ghana (2020); Becoming as well as Being, Gallery 1957, London (2020); Hos Oona Galleri & Sundhed, Denmark (2017).
Group exhibitions include Cgunu/Nkambom, Cape Town (2020); Chalewote Street Art Festival, Pidgin Imaginarium, Ghana (2019); Sabolai Radio Music Festival, Ghana (2019); Ghana Culture Forum, National Theatre, London (2017); Africa Contemporary Art Gabah, Hamburg (2016); It's here, it's there, it's everywhere, Ghana National Museum, Accra (2015).
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2021