You have lived in Germany since 1986, why Germany?
Well, I never wanted to leave Ghana, however it was through my parents’ influence that I eventually arrived in Germany.
You have been successful in carving a niche for yourself as an African artist based in Germany. What makes the art scene in Germany different from other countries and how has living in Germany influenced your art?
Firstly, the art scene in Germany has nothing to do with Africa – it is very Eurocentric. Secondly, I think perhaps living in Germany has made me recognize my African roots but also made me very much aware that we all share the same space of a Global Village. Meaning that now, there is a gradual change in motion.
What are your most enduring insights about settling in Germany as an African artist and how would you advise other young African artists interested in exploring the country professionally?
I went to the Kunsthalle in Bremen and talked to the director about holding a potential exhibition, and found out that the idea was unheard of at that time. The director, I do not remember his name, asked me if I was an American and when I answered in the negative, he pointed in the direction of the Übersee Museum, to their pre-colonial department without taking a look at my portfolio. The idea of African contemporary art was too ‘exotic’. I was able to contact the Director of the Übersee Museum himself, through my persistent enquiry, made my acquaintance with him, and was able to exhibit in the foyer of the museum. After that I persisted through hard work and close contact to Herbert Gansylmeyer who was the Director of the museum, and consequently got myself juried into an important group exhibition in the museum, which comprised of German and European artists. I was the only African. That was in 1988. The exhibition was titled Artists for Human Rights Against War (Künstler für menschenrechte gegen kreig). In 1989, Herbert Gannsylmeyer succeeded in convincing the State of Bremen to finance the commissioning of a monumental painting measuring 250 x 300cm, the second largest painting I have ever done. It was titled From Sharpville to Soweto (Von Sharpville bis Soweto) this painting is now in the collection of the Museum. I became determined to seek inspiration from the positive aspects of my culture and upbringing. I have pursued this path all this while, which has brought me to the place and the truths that I navigate in. As for young African artists exploring or wanting to explore Germany or any other European country, I would advise that they go back or stay at home to help rebuild their countries.
I use consciously rebuild because the rip in our collective consciousness through slavery and colonialism has still not healed and we need the energy of all good willing individuals, black or white to come to help heal the land, for the restoration of Africa, means the rebirth of humanity. I will say to those wanting to leave the continent, to stay and work in their various countries. I think staying closer to your roots and your own culture enhances your art. There are more opportunities in Africa now, as the world has changed and keeps on changing. I wanted to stay, however, I was prompted to leave, and it was a very different time when compared to now. It is up to the African continent to promote and expose its own art. I can understand there is a lot of frustration, but the time is coming when governments will appreciate their culture, build museums for contemporary art and support it. There is going to be a restoration.
There is going to be a boom in Africa – a resurgence has already begun, a renaissance of unprecedented proportions is about to begin. A global critical mass is about to be reached. This is the time for Africa.
How do you feed your creative process?
I have my own kind of meditation. I do also pray. I take periods of time getting close to nature and the sea. I swim. I read and research on the world-wide web.
Do you paint from memory?
No, I do not. I paint from drawings and these drawings come from my research. I use myself frequently as a model.
What are you trying to communicate through your art? I am trying to bear witness to the truth – the truth of our reality and existence. We must accept the fact that existence and reality are one. The collective of souls is an energetic movement of inter-relationships of consciousness. We are interconnected. There is so much fear in our world today. Fear segregates, love integrates. Mine, through my art is the mission of integration. Our oneness – we are that I AM.
How has your style changed over the years?
It has developed overtime; it has morphed from Surrealism to the German neoexpressionistic “Neue Wilde” of the eighties. Stone Age forms, to the pre-colonial African masks, Graffiti. From body paintings to the Adinkra symbols. Pictograms and universal symbols based on the principles of Sacred Geometry.
Why do you work primarily in acrylics?
I like working in this medium, because it does not smudge like oil, has no smell and dries quickly. It is of a lighter substance.
Tell me a little about your first show in 1976. How did the audience respond to your work?
It was highly exciting. I was very young, being 19years old. The audience was very receptive, that was encouraging. I felt accepted as an artist. And I sold.
Your recent solo exhibition at the October Gallery is titled Microcron Begins. Is this a rebirth or a reworking of the Microcron theme, which has featured prominently in your work for several years?
Rather than a re-working, I would say it is an expansion of the theme. The exhibition explores the idea of the infinite expansion of the ultra-macrocosmic dimensions and entities beyond our multiverse. It also delves into the truth of infinite abundance of life in creation and in the Microcron. Consciousness having manifested space, impacted it with energy, creating all that there is. That what we are is consciousness, powerful spirit beings having a human experience. That this truth when understood will enable us to propel forward in our evolution as mortal and immortal beings, as invincible souls having innumerable incarnations and reincarnations, manifesting that which is God in our bodies, that which is our divinity and spirit essence. These paintings show us who we truly are, immortals, eternal and infinite trans-dimensional and interdimensional beings, experiencing all that is. All that pertains to the deeper understanding of the Microcron as a catalyst for our evolution. Physical, mental, scientific and technological, soul and spirit. The understanding of the infinite and eternal abundance in ourselves and in all things. Infinite and eternal expansion, within and without. For within the parameters of the finite is the infinite. Infinity in infinities, our consciousness encompasses and goes beyond our universe. Our brain and our universe are identical holograms. Consciousness is beyond the brain and all material universes. Consciousness is at the core of all that is. The Microcron is the symbol of consciousness. Limitless wakefulness and awareness. God-consciousness, the ultimate state of being. The Microcron is the symbol of unconditional love. That is what Microcron Begins is all about.
Many of your works featured deal with man’s relationship as a unit to the universe. Why is this important to you?
If we are so egotistic, as not to see that we are inter-connected to each other and relate to all that is around us, it will in the end become our destruction. We must come to the realization that we are indeed related to Nature and the earth. If we are able to relate to our environment and planet, we will have the ability to expand into the other realities of our universe. This is shown through the harmonic compositions in the juxapositioning of the symbols. They harmonize, and are complimentary to each other. It is most obvious in the circle of orbs as seen in the symbol and entities of the Microcron as many orbs of light stationed in a constellation of equality and rhythmic harmony. All has its purpose, all is right in place.
You are well-known for investing your figures with the intense energy of Michelangelo’s figures, and then painting over their bodies with the collective wisdom of the Akan people in form of Adinkra symbols, as well as Chinese calligraphy and other well-known logos, including symbols of your own invention. How are you able to marry all these influences?
It’s very simple – symbols speak to us and they compliment each other on my canvas. Because symbols are a manifestation of our collective consciousness. They strike chord in us, there is a conscious and unconscious message that tell us of our oneness in spirit. The most intricate and mathematical of symbols stem from very ancient times and have their basis in the principles of ‘Sacred geometry’. They can be found in almost all religions of the world. Most of the Akan and Adinkra symbols also have their basis in the principles of Sacred geometry.
Over the years in my career, I’ve gathered this knowledge, so now, it is simpler for me to relate one symbol to the other and place them besides each other in complimentary energetic, vibrational frequency. Now, literally everything and all things come out of the all encompassing source field of consciousness of which we are fractal pieces. You see, if we are one in consciousness, then you come to the basics that there is only one human on planet earth, this is sometimes symbolized by the lone figures on some of my canvases. If we are one, then all cultures and religions are one.
For what we all seek is beauty in culture and love in all our religions. This in essence is the unifying truth that enables me to bring all these symbols into a synchronizing harmony, and into a singular universal truth.
Unraveling each artwork from a system of complex symbols and messages embedded in your technique may be difficult to first time viewers or people unfamiliar with your work. How do you want your audience to interpret your work?
It’s not really about interpretation; I would like the audience to identify with the universal symbols in the paintings. These symbols come from everywhere in the world, and the viewer does identify with them, because these symbols speak to us. There is a universal message embedded in them, and that is the universal interconnection of our souls and consciousness. The message is the emphatic and inescapable truth of love and unconditional love. It is up to the viewer to align her or himself to the frequencies of harmonic resonances of positivity that the symbols and the compositional movements that the figures exude. It is all about us and the divinity in our bodies. God, our consciousness.
Are there other historical /societal issues discussed in your work?
Yes, there are. If you look back through the corridors of time up to the present, you will realize that our present civilization is built on deceit, lies and blood. We have been plagued by fear during the genocide of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and colonizations up through the so called Industrial Revolution to the World Wars, and up to our present time. Humanity has had enough of its own self made scarcity that has been generated by fear. I attempt to tackle the question of scarcity, which has plagued our civilization for centuries. We have created the idea of scarcity, however, our reality and existence is full of abundance. We have plenty forever. But because we do not think we are interconnected as human beings, others may waste food and water on one side of the planet, while others die of famine on the other side of the world. But you see, there really is enough for us all. My work is about the infinity of possibilities and abundance offered to us by nature, our planet and the universe. Space is in itself is not empty but full of the infinite energy of infinite possibilities.
Explain your working methods?
I let go!
What questions have you tried to answer through your work, and which remain unanswered? Who are we? Where do we come from?
What are we doing here? Where are we going? All questions and answers are embedded in my work – the question is: Is the viewer prepared to be confronted with these questions and to accept the answers that are universal and true? This is the clue to solving the problems of our so called modern world. Energy. Away with fossil fuels. Implement the absolute alternative and sustainable energy source called Zero Point Energy, and we will realize a new civilization of science and technological progress, and a new culture of high art will be born in prosperity and abundance for everyone. The desserts of our planet will turn into blooming green pastures. An in-depth understanding of my vision begins to unfold in the book, Microcron Begins. My advice to anyone reading these lines is to go get the book and read it. She/he will be positively astonished. And this is just the beginning.
Lastly, what is the most surprising thing you’ve learnt during your time painting professionally?
The most surprising thing that I have learnt in my career is the experience I had in the early nineties. I was back home in Ghana and had been down two days with malaria. I laid me down in bed feverishly drowsing when I saw like in a dream or vision, the most dynamic, crystalline, intricately and microscopically woven thin web of Sacred Geometrical Symbols vibrating in the expanse of space. I woke instantly, startled. Now, after my Artists Talk with Gerard Houghton at October Gallery, a guy came up to me who had bought the book Microcron Begins and wanted me to sign it. He looked at me pensively and intently, with a deep understanding in his eyes. I have seen them before he said; I have seen these symbols in a dream. I have had a similar experience I told him. He then looked happy, sated and relieved. He went away thanking me profusely with a smile on his face. My first recent experience actually, before the one I mentioned, a man came up to me during the opening of the exhibition Microcron Begins at October Gallery. A man came up to me after the opening speech by Professor Paul Goodwin. He was all smiles, happy and elated. This is what he said to me….” I have seen it he said. I had a near fatal automobile accident. When I was being operated upon at the hospital emergency theater, I left my body, went up through the universe, to its edge and beyond. Then I saw them, I saw these geometrically precisely placed entities of globes, circles in circles as depicted in your paintings. This for me, is the vindication of the reality of truth of my experience.” So the Microcron is real, the Microcron is true.What I’ve also learnt during my career is the synchronicity of truth. Now this is the truth, that we manifest our own reality. That we never die. That we have the power to change our reality and our world. That what we think and imagine becomes. We are it. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. That our purpose of being is to use the creative force within us to change our planet into a paradise, and our world into a heaven. That is the epiphany.