time, the problem brings people together. So here I have a painting of my 94-year old grandma, she has lived through many different water shortages; and then there is a young pregnant woman, and there is a woman from Brazil, who is well off and lives in a very expensive area of Accra. She may not carry a yellow gallon, but she’s still affected by the water problem, as she still needs to store her water in a large storage tank, so she doesn’t run out. JW: What is the cause of the water problem? El-Yesha Puplampu: There are a number of reasons for the problem. There are certain areas that have been properly planned, so they have piping but, as you go further out, the government hasn’t been especially vigilant where people have been building. People are living in unapproved structures, without water systems. In other areas, there is overpopulation. RB: Chuck Close posits the idea of, “putting rocks in his shoes’”; by this he means that he makes life deliberately difficult for himself to facilitate the creative process. Does this resonate with you? JQ: No, I am just glued to the traditional idea of presenting things. Art has become heavily diversified, but we always seem to come back to where it started from. There is a beautiful relationship that exists between painters and their materials. To be able to bring form into being is very satisfying in itself. RB: Do you use projection to facilitate likeness, as a photorealist like Richard Estes might do? JQ: No, I use scaling. I am quite a traditionalist in that sense. I had to stop using oil paint because of my
opposite: work in progress, from the series: Yellow is the Colour of Water, Jeremiah Quarshie, acrylic on canvas, 2016, 122 x 152 cm, courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Accra. photo: Nii Odzenma previous page: Miss World, Africa from the series: Yellow is the Colour of Water, Jeremiah Quarshie, acrylic on canvas, 2016, 122 x 152 cms, courtesy the artist and Gallery 1957, Accra. photo: Nii Odzenma
asthma; so I work in acrylic now, using layers to build the figures up and to give them form; the highlights are applied last. I usually have five or six works in progress at any one time; when I’m bored of one, I move to the next. AS: What obstacles have you faced since leaving art school? JQ: In Ghana, there is zero support – you are alone if you choose art. To become an artist, when the general expectation is for you to get a job after school, is a tough choice. It’s also a very slow process; it demands a lot of learning. I got reasonable commissions quickly. Because of the way I paint, local people wanted to commission me, which allowed me to take care of my basic needs. I always wanted to concentrate on doing my own work though; the challenge is how one can do both. AS: Are you wanting to get representation from Europe or the States? JQ: After the show in Holland, there was some interest in my work from galleries abroad, but it’s always difficult to have a relationship with a gallery that is not physically close by. Also, I always want to stay in Ghana. This is where my inspiration lies; it is my driving force—CCQ
Jeremiah Quarshie’s solo exhibition Yellow is the Colour of Water is at Gallery 1957, Accra, August – September 2016. Gallery1957.com
We have gone to Ghana with this issue where we have collaborated with Serge Attukwei Clottey and we spoke to the cultural visionary Nana Ofo...