In his latest series Cross Hatching Affluence, inspiring artist Hamid Nii Nortey depicts a the glamorous reality of the modern African lifestyle in his colourful, figurative paintings. Inspired by Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, Hamid takes a nod to his creative inspiration in his vibrant palette and scenic depictions. With themes that indicate the progressive state of Africa, Hamid discusses with us the importance of dismantling damaging world views on the poverty-ridden stereotypes of Africa and the importance of Artist representation.
Your work often depicts beautiful cityscapes that reflect on Ghana’s transformative capital. What inspires you to illustrate these scenic African views?
Over the years, African countries have experienced tremendous development in different sectors which has significantly impacted and improved the standard of living of citizens. Not to say that all livelihoods have been transformed, but a huge number of citizens in their respective countries have been affected by these developments. Very little of this, if any, is depicted at this point through art. I deemed it necessary to use my work, and the specific Cross Hatching Affluence series, to narrate a different perspective of the glamorous lifestyle of Africans to the world.
It’s refreshing to see a different perspective of Africa being illustrated in art, as most people still tend to inherit the outdated stereotypes of an “undeveloped Africa”. In what ways did you feel this narrative was damaging for African artists?
Most African artists were immersed and had internalised the concept of painting old, gradually-perishing-looking Africans, poverty-ridden figures that reflected a supposed and prevailing trope of an under-developed Africa. This narrow viewpoint prevented them from looking beyond that subject and challenging their artistic visions and expressions.
Who have been your creative inspirations throughout your career?
Throughout my career I have been inspired by the Dutch post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art, Vincent Willem Van Gogh.
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Your latest exhibition Cross Hatching Affluence is currently on view at the ADA\ contemporary art gallery in Ghana and includes a spectacular series of paintings showcasing a glamorous African lifestyle. In what ways do you wish to continue to alter the limiting perceptions society has on African art and lifestyle?
I will continue to make works that in one way or the other touch base with the contemporary, glamorous lifestyle of Africans. I believe that this endeavour will help narrate a different story of Africa, and of Africans, and alter the perception people have of the continent and of its many peoples, no longer “singular” as previously conceived through a European lens.
Growing up, was becoming an artist always what you wanted to do, or did you have another career choice in mind?
I have always wanted to become an artist even though I gave up a few times to pursue other careers. They were all somehow nevertheless aligned to my dream, and ultimately contributed in shaping my artistic development and practice.
Your painting style incorporates a vibrant impressionist colour palette that reflects the warmth and richness of Ghanaian landscapes. How do you come about choosing the colours for your work?
Looking at my surroundings and the everyday lifestyle of the people that surround me, I noticed that everyone has his or her own way of choosing colours as a tool to communicate one’s identity, because everyone wants to stand out and be noticed. I made sure that every colour I chose befits the scenery and stands out from the next piece. My experience in interior decoration played a pivotal role in the colour composition for this body of work.
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With the past lockdowns forcing a lot of us to adjust to a new normal, how have you felt during this period and has it altered the way that you work?
The lockdown helped me experiment with different styles, techniques and subjects. It helped me develop my craft through regular practice and meditation. I became increasingly in touch and perceptive of my surroundings.
The figurative paintings in the Cross Hatching Affluence exhibition portray a powerful, varied depiction of African identity. What are your thoughts and experiences with your own identity?
During my painting process, I mostly pictured myself as part of every piece, especially when it came to the male figures. I like to have fun and look good – don’t we all! I replicate my sense of fashion and good living into most of the pieces.
What techniques and processes do you use when creating pieces such as the ones featured in Cross Hatching Affluence?
I reflected on scenes I experience and hereby capture during my everyday life [through] the people I see, the places I go to. And I sometimes create imaginary personalities that I envision would fittingly complement a modern architectural building I find somewhere in the city of Accra.
You’ve recently been involved in some exciting and successful solo exhibitions, what should we expect from you next in the near future?
I am doing a lot of studies and research to develop my artistic expression and vision for my new body of work which would be exhibited in Europe.
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