Gideon Appah: Love Letters
This summer, Gallery 1957, Accra hosts their first solo exhibition of Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah, running from June 29 to August 15, 2019. With reference to his last body of work, ‘Memoirs Through Pokua’s Window’ (2018), Appah delves further into a nostalgic and surreal visual language unearthing hidden recollections and shared visions.
This multi-media exhibition presents a journey through the individual and collective memories defining Appah’s West African childhood and personal narrative. A dreamlike world of deep soulful blues is punctuated by painterly vignettes from both physical reality – expressive, hopeful figures in white during a confessionary church service – and psychological spirituality – a vibrant and seductive purple lake from a clairvoyant dream. This landscape sits alongside family photographs, films stills, and domestic interiors from Ghana during the 1980s and ’90s. Together they create an exhibition where surrealism meets domesticity and folklore meets religion—a family tree with many branches, each occupying a space between spirituality and physicality.
Within the gallery, a large facade of a Ghanaian house – a physical and figurative window into the artist’s upbringing, family life, and memories – recontextualises the space as a domestic realm where reality mixes with fantasy, as if on a movie set. Multi-layered stories of a large family emerge, where tales of mystic visions are passed down through generations, Gollywood films are played on a Gold Star VHS recorder and forgotten love letters are found in the thin sheets of saturated family albums. Drawing upon his experience with digital photography and videography alongside painting, drawing, and printmaking, the artist expands his modes of communicating for this installation through personally significant and culturally loaded materials, from movie stills and love letters hidden on the back of family photos, to translucent Ghanaian dye, local building materials, and indigenous plants.
For Appah, Ghanaian videos serve as not only potent sources of nostalgia but also poignant portals in a search for identity. Reflecting on tropes relating to gender, religion, and romance, Gollywood films from the 1980s onwards often mirror tensions between preserving local traditions and indulging global desires. The mediums with which Appah activates these films – movie stills, screenshots, prints, and transfers – offer a visual landscape where local imaginaries and transcultural exchanges co-exist and evolve. Still frames from classics including the iconic Love Brewed in the African Pot (1980), The Bitter Results (1995), and Jennifer: So Lovely, So Deadly (1998) are isolated and mixed to create a collaged syntax that disrupts western world narratives, timeframes, and gender roles.
Appah welcomes us into this family home to watch a nostalgic Rom Com pulsing with existential individualism and to read deeper into a lost love letter. For whether our languages of love express themselves as spiritual visions, guilty pleasures, or secret whispers, this is a world where romance can be radical.
August 23, 2019