Welcome to summer, the season of weddings, holidays but most captivatingly, prestigious Art Exhibitions. Prior to the opening night of the exhibition, I met the beautiful Ms Bendu Cooper, founder of Gallery of African Art at a Sotheby’s luncheon (World’s largest brokers of fine art). Having talked about everything from politics to vacations in Monaco, to fashion and of course art; she invited me to an event at her gallery in Mayfair.
“Dedicated to showcasing the best of 20th century and contemporary
Art from the African region and its Diaspora.
The gallery aims to present established and emerging African artist
to new audiences with the global art market.” – artnet.com
Being of African origin, with the awareness that there are very few art galleries in London focused solely on showcasing African art and artists, I was compelled to attend. I arrived at such a visually alluring venue, wide glass door leading into a white minimalist space. Above was the name of the gallery written in gold with a black background, everything about this place exudes class and sophistication.
“The exhibition highlights his explorations of:
Culture, memory, beauty, humanity
And the hybridity of identity” – GAFRA
After taking in the exterior of the gallery, I proceeded to enter but stalled to let the photographer standing between me and the door finish taking pictures of this tall, dark, well dressed figure of a man on the other side of the glass. That man I found out was the artist himself, Ghanaian born Emmanuel ‘Yaw’ Obuobi. An Architecture graduate from the University of Technology Kumasi, now a renowned artist in Ghana, America and UK with 25 years in the industry, commissioning for individuals like HRH Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Duchess of Cambridge; just to name a few. Side note; I see the correlation between Yaw Obuobi’s field of academic study and his unique artistic technique of ‘yarn painting’.
“By using coloured yarns, playing with texture,
weaving interlocking and layering to ‘paint’,
Yaw produces exquisite pieces with depth,
fluidity, texture, realism and character” – GAFRA
After seeing his solo exhibition Threads of Art at the gallery, I gained full understanding as to why his works are highly sought after by royalty and individuals with a rich appreciation of art that is African but not typically ethnic. Meaning you see the cultural heritage without it alienating the audience. This is not to say that Yaw’s collection does not include some which are strikingly African, for example Kenyan and Ghanaian.
Whilst perusing through the gallery, I kept visualising settings where I am likely to see these spectacular, intricately woven ‘Yarn paintings’ and the following came to mind;
Floating Transcience 2016 – The Dorchester
Autum Leaves 2015 – The Wolseley
Vindication 2015 – Ghanaian Embassy
Fragmented 2015 – A house in Belgravia
Window of Life 2015 – My house (It resonated with me. Trust my taste to be at the higher end of the price scale)
Aside from the artist’s work, the opening night itself was well attended by a diverse mix of art lovers, buyers and notable industry individuals;
Young talented artist from Nigeria, she studied an Arts degree in Delta State and went on to do her Masters in Fine Art at University College London. She frequently represents African artists at international exhibitions such as 1:54 art fair and solo exhibitions at galleries such as GAFRA abroad.
Elsbeth Joyce Court
Elsbeth Court is a specialist in African art and art education at SOAS. Whose research focuses on the growth of modern and contemporary practices of art. Her ongoing projects involve the Akamba carving movement and editing (and up-dating) the volume ‘Artists and Art Education in Africa’ in which African artists address the conditions and complexities of becoming an artist in and out of Africa.
Magdalene Odundo OBE
Kenyan born, Magdalene Odundo holds a prominent position as one of the leading teachers working in Britain. She has curated shows including the excellent Pioneers to the Present (which she co-curated for the Crafts Study Centre with Barley Roscoe in 2002). Magdalene herself has had her work exhibited at the British Museum and the Met in New York to see her distinctive ceramics sitting side by side with the ancient terracotta vessels of civilisations now long gone.
Sajid Rizvi artist and founding editor and publisher, Saffron Books, various journals, magazines and periodicals, some of them academically referenced including (but not only) Eastern Art Report, Art Criticism Today, East Asia Journal, East Asian Europe, European Crossroads and The Middle East in Europe/meenet.info. Sajid is also a practicing artist with frequent commercial exhibitions in Britain and abroad. His work is also in private collections in China, France, Germany, United States and Canada.
Exhibition: Threads of Art by Yaw Obuobi
Dates: 14th July – 13th August
Location: 45 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4JL
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, 10am – 6pm and Sat, 11am – 5pm
Underground: Green Park – Jubilee, Victoria & Piccadilly lines Bond Street – Central & Jubilee lines Major bus routes: Via Piccadilly, Regent Street and Oxford Street.