Yaw Owusu Ghana, b. 1992
Yaw Owusu (b.1992) creates sculptural installations that repurpose found objects, shifting the value of otherwise-worthless materials into things of beauty. Built from countless pieces of loose change known as “pesewa” coins, his work activates urgent questions around economic and political independence in contemporary Ghana. First introduced as an attempt to cure the countries economy’s inflation in 2007, these small copper coins have almost no value in today’s financial climate, enabling the artist to use them as a primary material. Typical of Owusu’s approach to working with local agencies to develop his work, the artist acquired the coins by negotiating with Ghana’s banks – a bureaucratic process that is as important to the artist’s practice as the final works.
Created as structural works that embrace the same organic qualities of their materials his sculptures have incorporated as much as twenty-four thousand coins, transforming under various conditions and processes. The bronzed coins undergo various natural and chemical treatments, using salt from the south coasts and vinegar from the mid and eastern regions to reveal their age and quality. They can appear fixed onto wooden panels, draped over walls or loosely hanging onto surfaces to form a camouflage, however they are anything but decorative displays of natural beauty. Instead, these installations are an expression of the artists reflections on the complex processes that demarcate Ghana’s social and political systems. Like the economy itself, the sculptures seem robust due to their dense façade, yet they are in flux and constant movement with their surroundings. The surfaces act both as protective layer of indestructible metal and an shiny foil made up of empty matter.
Through his social engaged yet visually rich practice, Owusu’s continues to question the non-functionality of the countries ongoing infrastructural development. In his new body of work, devalued coins are transformed into a detailed surfaces resembling maps. In one instance, they could be images of old colonial maps representing economic power structures drawn by history, or they could be alternative typographies that map out new possible relations for a more resourceful future. While the material itself is inseparable from the failure of socio-economic structures in Ghana, the artist playful approach is rooted in a sense of alchemy that embraces the complexity of notions of value, exchange and locality in an increasingly global environment.
Yaw Owusu - Reflections from the (In)Visible PastLondon, UK 25 Nov 2021 - 15 Jan 2022A Penny for Your Thought Yaw Owusu’s new series of monumental sculptures feature dynamic, abstract geographies that interrogate systems of value, mobility, and power. Composed mainly of Ghanaian pesewa coins,...
18:20 The CollectionAccra, Gallery I 25 Aug 2018 - 5 Jan 2019Gallery 1957 presents a group exhibition highlighting several reputable artists from our collection. All respected in the African art scene, these artists explore themes such as identity, family and society...
Yaw Owusu-All That GlittersAccra, Gallery I 29 Jun - 5 Aug 2017Yaw Owusu demonstrates the transformative tendencies of copper coins by reimagining them as both material and pallet. His recent work activates urgent questions around economic and political independence in Ghana....
16:16 The CollectionAccra, Gallery I 16 Dec 2016 - 26 Jan 2017.
Gustavo Nazareno and Yaw Owusu : Eye of The CollectorEngland 9 - 11 Sep 2021Gallery 1957 is delighted to participate in the first edition of the boutique art fair Eye of the Collector with new work by Gustavo Nazareno and Yaw Owusu . Eye of the Collector is a new art fair created to inspire and engage, where collectors have the opportunity to view and acquire extraordinary works of art set within the beautiful historic rooms of Two Temple Place, London . From 8-11 September Eye of the Collector will bring together a group of leading international galleries to present art and design spanning...