Gideon Appah represents the Ghana Pavilion at Triennale di Milano

Gideon Appah, Blue River, 2020, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 240 x 300 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957.
Lisbeth Thalberg
Lisbeth Thalberg

(Accra) – Gallery1957 announces Gideon Appah’s representation of the Ghana pavilion at the 23rd International Exhibition at Triennale di Milano. The ambitious new body of work, titled A Nubian Landscape, reflects themes and narratives that Appah has explored over the last three years, whilst also newly exploring figures inspired by the indigenous Nubian population of the central Nile valley, believed to be one of the earliest cradles of civilisation. The exhibition complements his current show Gideon Appah: Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes, on view until June 19, 2022, at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA at VCU).
Appah’s figurative compositions are taken from newspaper clippings, entertainment posters, and films produced between the 1950s and the 80s to explore the rise and fall of Ghanian cinema and leisure culture and, at times, inspired by his imagination. Appah draws from personal experiences in the capital of Accra, presenting artistic archives of communal life in family settings, a visual journey through the individual and collective memories defining his West African childhood. He creates artworks wherein surrealism meets domesticity and folklore meets religion. In new-otherworldly works, Appah’s compositional range is evident in both the city and in domestic scenes: they feature figures in positions of leisure and depictions of rituals in areas where land and sky meet.
His landscapes, home to mysterious male spirits emerging from melancholy waters, sit alongside joyful family photographs and interiors from Ghana during the 80s and 90s. The surreal scenes of rural landscapes populated by unknown, indigenous people divorced from city influence are miraged with tropes from legend and myth. Here, he abandons the city scenes to create a world where romance can be radical in spiritual visions, guilty pleasures, or secret whispers; a world made of mysteriousness.
Appah’s most recent work manifests a new desire to paint atmospheric elements, particularly clouds and stars, as backgrounds to his poetic narrative. While pondering ways of painting not only the sky but also mountains, rivers, and hills we observe the artist’s transition from a recurrent use of a nostalgic blue, which permeated most of his compositions until date, to a strong red never used before. However, Appah’s visual poetry remains a dedication to love; Gideon’s characters are captured in bucolic views expressing this sentiment through their intimate bodily motions and a strong sense of fragility that perpetuate the artist’s long-standing eulogy to love and sentimentality.

About the Artist

Appah was born in Accra, Ghana in 1987. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts at The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi in 2012. Appah has held exhibitions in Ghana including his first solo show Sensation at the Goethe Institute in Accra (2013) and an End of Year Exhibition at the KNUST Museum (2012). In 2015 he was chosen as one of the top ten finalists in Ghana for the Kuenyehia Art Prize for Contemporary Ghanaian Arts. That same year Appah became the first international artist to win the 1st Merit Prize Award at the Barclays L’Atelier Art Competition in Johannesburg. This awarded him a 3-month artist residency at the Bag Factory Studios (2016) and a solo show at the Absa Gallery, Johannesburg (2017). Appah had a solo booth with Gallery 1957 at the 1-54 Contemporary Africa Art Fair, New York City (2018). Growing up in a large family, the works are reflective of a life characterized by strong emotional bonds, religious activities and folklore. Through nostalgic blues, deep green landscapes, and charcoal, his dreamlike compositions place typical domestic interiors from the 1980s and 90s Ghana against surreal landscapes.

About The 23rd International Exhibition

The Triennale di Milano, which is an event dedicated to the decorative arts, is officially recognised by the BIE (Bureau International des Expositions). Among all international exhibitions, it is expectational in that it has always been hosted in the same city. The 23rd International Exhibition features a constellation of exhibitions, offering a huge variety of points of view and opening up to interdisciplinary perspectives that will expand its vision of what we still don’t know we don’t know. Unknown Unknowns encompasses an array of skills and sensitivities and an attitude that relies on eyes that are free to adopt a new approach to the unknown. An environmental installation, created by Francis Kéré, rises up in the Palazzo dell’Arte, welcoming and accompanying visitors as they explore the unknown worlds represented in the various shows that constitute the 23rd International Exhibition. By presenting research projects that broaden our understanding, Triennale Milano renews its mission and, true to its history, it continues to reflect on the issues and emergencies facing the contemporary world.

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