Born in Accra, Ghana in 1994, Kwesi Botchway lives and works in his city of birth which inspires his artistic representations of Black beauty, joy, and futurity. Botchway locates himself firmly in the Black Art genealogy, using his work to respond to anti-Blackness as experienced by Africans as well as those in far-flung African diasporas. Resonant across his work is the mission to represent Blackness beyond the limits of dominant narratives, representing its loveliness, vitality, and expansiveness.
Botchway works within the portrait tradition that bears a storied legacy in western art, reworking it by centring the long-absent and ignored Black figure. Blending styles of French Impressionism and African Realism, Botchway transforms the portrait into a study not of fixedness of identity, but of becoming and possibility. This oeuvre marks a shift from his earlier works, which sit more squarely in the realist style and are heavily influenced by Ghanian street art traditions. Realism and abstraction also influence the artist’s process of choosing subjects - while many are those Botchway knows from his life, others spring from his imagination or are composites of features he gleans from the world around him.
Refusing to perform for the white gaze, the figures in his recent portraiture exist in both the real beauty of the Black present as well as the fantastical possibilities of Black futures. They meet the viewer’s gaze directly or turn away from the stare, in both instances preserving an aura of mystery that forestalls a total and transparent availability to the audience. Instead, these subjects maintain interior lives that are shielded from public view, inner worlds of fantasy and possibility that signal the richness of Blackness. The face is a significant element to Botchway’s portraits, as he considers it to be a reflection of the soul. Illustrating his fusion of realism and impressionism, these faces are both recognisable and fantastically surreal. The orange-hued eyes of his subjects signify the more-than-human quality of Blackness while the purple that saturates their skin both refuses the racialised meanings dominant culture reads onto Black skin and indexes the colour’s association with royalty to represent the Black figure as a majestic being. Colours, Botchway believes, are characters much like the subjects of his paintings, and so each pigment is chosen with precise and calculated intention. Despite the surreal and private nature of these figures, he aims for these works to be in dialogue with the audience, drawing them into a world in which Black is so much more than what racism connotes it to be, challenging the viewer and broader society to confront the myths of anti-Blackness.
Kwesi Botchway is the Founder of WorldFaze Art Studio in Accra, a studio and residency space focusing on supporting young local artists. This support for emerging talent is deeply inflected by his own introduction to painting through apprenticing with a Ghanian street artist at a young age. He studied art at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra before enrolling at the Academy of Visual Arts in Frankfurt, Germany. He has held solo exhibitions in Denmark, Ghana, the UK, and Belgium, some resulting from his residency at Gallery 1957 in Ghana in 2020. Group exhibitions have featured his work across Ghana, South Africa, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, while he has been exhibited at fairs such as Art Brussel Week in 2021. Botchway was nominated for the GUBA Awards USA as an Influential Artist in 2019, and has received significant press attention, profiled by publications such as Vogue, Financial Times, Flash Art, The Art Newspaper, Stylist, ArtNews, and Frieze.
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