Jeremiah Quarshie and His Yellow Kegs
Ghanaian artist, Jeremiah Quarshie’s hyper realistic paintings explore the boundaries between physical and digital production. Through portraiture, he manages to expose the ritual of everyday practices associated with social interactions, fashion, commerce and so on. Quarshie sets up his portraits to evoke responses from the public that should lead to improvements in their socio-cultural lives. In a recent interview with Omenka, Quarshie explains more about the motivation and philosophy behind his works.
When did you decide you wanted to become a painter?
When I was younger, I had doubts about what my future occupation would be as I have always had varied interests and abilities. However, I settled on becoming an artist by the time I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Your hyper realistic paintings aim to explore the boundaries between physical and digital productions, how do you achieve this balance?
My process stems from paying attention to past and present influences of portraiture. Having seen the actual paintings of Vermeer and Rembrandt, coupled with the knowledge of the painting processes of photorealists such as Chuck Close and my personal attributes of being meticulous and paying a great deal of attention to detail, my works often result from subtly or boldly appropriating various genres of portrait painting.
According to your website, you photograph scenes in high resolution at night to capture specific lighting and then you use the image as a reference for your work; on average how long does it take you to complete a painting?
Of course, the painting process starts right when I conceive the idea. The possible colours, light positions, poses and even moods are somewhat formed in my head. The photographs I take try to mimic what I have already thought of and then serve as a body of work, which aids in producing the final work.
Moods determine how much time and effort each work will take. That being said, there are works that have come to completion with 12 to 18 hours a day of work for 2 weeks, while some have taken a more patient approach, resulting in more than weeks of work.
Installation Image, Jeremiah Quarshie, Yellow is the Colour of Water, Gallery 1957, Accra. Photo: Phil Odzenma
Why did you focus on painting as opposed to photography?
In my view, painting allows me to manipulate the scene and narrative a lot more than photography. While painting, there is the option of adding and subtracting elements from a scene, and it is a far simpler process than doing so with photography. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to experiment more freely in affecting the final outcome of an artwork, and introducing parts to my final work, which are non-existent in the photo, I am working from.
In the series ‘Yellow is the colour of water’, what informed your choice of yellow jerrycans and what is the thinking behind this series?
I am interested in everyday trends. I am struck by repetition and consistencies. It is the very contradictions and complexities that exists within these conditions that draw me to look critically and to do research to uncover hidden patterns of behaviour. The yellow gallons embodied many of such conditions and had a visual consistency in the Accra metropolis. The gallons therefore, represent a strong symbol of hope and failure amid a city’s search for potable water.
Your work tends to blend the traditional with modern day life, what message are you trying to pass on with?
The trends in the part of the world I live in that are full of contradictions. Part of the reasons they exist is because traditional trends often find their place in an even the most modern situations. My works highlight these these vivid yet subtle trends, emphasizing their unique nature and interesting visual appeal.
You presently have your work displayed at Gallery 1957, do you have any plans to exhibit in galleries outside Ghana?
It is evident that the gallery is interested in collaboration for more visibility. That’s why I chose to work with it. As I work on future projects, there will surely come the possibilities of showing elsewhere.
The art scene in Ghana is largely still developing with few collectors as patrons. How difficult is it to gain access to them and sell your work?
I focus on giving myself satisfaction. A pursuit of such results in providing a similar feeling of pleasure for many others. Some of these end up as patrons. The already existing platforms for showcasing one’s work are strictly followed by collectors. Participating on such platforms creates opportunities to meet people interested in my work.
According to your website, you enjoy inspiring students artists, in what ways do you accomplish this?
I never close doors to anyone interested in coming over to seek direction. I have made concerted efforts to invite younger artists to have interactions with them. I have had presentations in schools both in Ghana and Europe to sensitise and encourage children who have a great deal of interest in art.
Image credits: Gallery 1957
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