Saturday 10 May 2014

In Lagos, a window into Ghana via Aggrey’s palettes

By Tajudeen Sowole             
Rarely does watercolour get a space in most artists’ choice of regular medium. But visiting Ghanaian artist, Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey, has added to the list of signatures such as Ini Brown, Sam Ovrraiti and Lekan Onabanjo who have, in the past two to three decades, thickened the watercolour landscape of Lagos art. 
                                      Kayaa Yoo, a watercolour painting by Jonathan Aggret

Also, young Aggrey’s themes are basically about Ghanaians on the streets, within and outside the urban settings. From the traditional ladies’ hair-braiding to the street workers and rural activities, Agggrey employs his watercolour in such a controlled flow as if it were oil or acrylic.

"We have to project African values," he declared to a guest, a few days after the closing of his exhibition titled African Essence, which held from March 29 to April 11, 2014 at Biodunomolayo Gallery, Onikan, Lagos Island. It was Aggrey’s first show in Nigeria.

Aggrey’s bio shows he is a graduate of the University College of Education, Winneba, Ghana. His works have featured in local and international exhibitions, just as the artist has also participated in quite a number of workshops in Western and Eastern Europe and received several awards to his credits.

If the works of familiar masters like Ablade Glover and El Anatsui have, over the decades, given Nigerian art lovers windows into Ghana's socio-cultural landscape, young. Aggrey’s appears set to widen the opening. Some of his works such as Kanya Yoo, Leisure Activity Series and Adowa Dance, Fishing Village; The herdsman, Boat ParkDeep Sailing, Potsin Village and Twilight Village offer a broader scope into the people's contemporary and diverse culture.

It’s of interest to note that the artist's capture of women braiding hair as depicted in the Leisure Activities series is not a revisit of lost culture. "More women in Ghana still do the plaiting of hair than go to the salon for western hairdressing," Aggrey disclosed.
A three ladies’ painting composited in triangular shape brings in a part of the country's ethnic diversity. Titled Kaya Yoo, it represents a section of Ghana's northern ethnic groups noted for "carrier jobs in the city of Accra." As an art piece, Kayaa Yoo exposes the artist's prospect of great compositional gift and quite a level of control over the highly fluid medium. And like some of the works on display inside Biodun Omolayo Gallery at the top floor at City Mall, the bouncing of yellow from the background onto a subtly reflection on the subjects is also one of the artist's creative assets.

While Aggrey 's streetscapes and riverside captures come with various form of depths as imbued-masterly piece, the artist's strength weighs heavily on the human elements. The mobility of his rendition, for example is loud in Adowe Dance, a depiction of what he described as "a popular Ashanti dance steps." Even in a portraiture, The Retired Fisherman, an illusory of movement radiates from the old man's neck through the veined jaw.

The curator, Biodun Omolayo and Aggrey met over the social media on Facebook. Exchanges took place between the two artists, eventually leading to the showing of African Essence. "Our meeting started on facebook as friends across borders," Omolayo disclosed. Soon, Omolayo realised that he and Aggrey had something in common to expand their friendship. “While checking on what each person was involved in, we both discovered that we can work together in a gallery/artist relationship."

And coincidentally, African Essence was programmed into several activities that marked the 50th birthday of Omolayo.

Born in 1984 and receiving both his basic and senior education in Ashaiman, he currently holds a Degree in Art Education (Bachelor of Arts) from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. Aggrey works as an art educator/teacher, painter, sculptor and book illustrator.

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