Author Archives: John



These new paintings were made in the UK in lockdown after repatriation from Ghana in May. Because of border closures in Ghana, we stayed two months longer than intended, mostly in Ho without a studio. So I went for walks around the town in the Volta Region (masked and gloved) and studied kiosks through drawing and photographing them and, when allowed to do so, by taking measurements.

It was not until I got back to the UK that I was able to paint, and that was after two weeks of self-isolation. I did a lot of reading, and thinking about what we had gone through: only when the sun came out did I feel in the right frame of mind to start working in our attic studio (our rented studio in town was in shutdown). Then I painted directly without too much editing or reworking. It felt good to be painting again despite all that was going on around us. The works on paper, formatted on the square, preempt and inform the later oil paintings.

Atta Kwami 

Loughborough, 30 June 2020. 

PRINTS IN COUNTERPOINT by Atta Kwami, Liverpool World Museum






In the Summer of 2014 Atta Kwami travelled to Liverpool to see the Mondrian exhibition at Tate Liverpool, and the Dazzle Ship in the Albert Dock; he also visited the World Museum to look at the collection in their World Cultures gallery. After meeting up with Dr. Zachary Kingdon, Curator of African Collections, they talked about the possibility of a small exhibition within the galleries. Atta Kwami wanted to draw objects on display. Later Zachary Kingdon asked if he might also like to draw some works from the collections in storage. Atta Kwami was very enthusiastic and returned to Liverpool to make studies of brass gold weights from Ghana, silver jewellery from the Sahara, beadwork from East Africa, Nigerian ankle ornaments and carved wooden utensils from Central Africa.

Initially Atta Kwami thought of making a suite of etchings but finally decided to make a series of linoleum cuts in order to produce densely, multi-coloured prints that would have a similar resonance to his paintings. Linoleum cutting, or lino cuts, is a relief method of printing like woodcuts in which the negative areas are cut away and read as white and the remaining positive areas take the ink, when inked up with a roller, and print as black or colour.

Atta Kwami cut various shapes and inked them individually and put them together rather like a patchwork or a jig-saw to make a multi-coloured baseprint; then he printed another block over it. This second block was intricately cut in such a way as to reveal areas of under-printings in some areas and over-printing in others. This way he quickly multiplied the number of possible colour combinations. Kwami’s work has an affinity with the rich traditions of West African design, more specifically, textiles and architecture.




Prints in Counterpoint – A suite of 16 linocuts, Liverpool Counterpoint (1-16)


Printed by Pamela Clarkson and Atta Kwami in 2014.


Dimensions: 50 x 33 cm; ink on BFK Rives paper.


Edition number: 5




The exhibition is curated by Dr. Zachary Kingdon, Curator of African Collections,


Liverpool World Museum, William Brown Street,


Liverpool L3 8EN


United Kingdom



AK_LC_11 AK_LC_13 AK_LC_14 AK_LC_15 AK_LC_16

Text and images

© Atta Kwami 2014


First Johannesburg solo exhibition


Red Flag, 1993, oil on board, 59 x 51 cm

Collection: Robert Loder

This painting was included in a mini-one person show of my work curated by Ricky Burnet and part of a larger exhibition, Persons and Pictures, Newtown Galleries, Johannesburg, 27 September -10 November 1995. (Exh. cat. pp. 9, 46-47, 58).

Extract from “….. us blacks …..” Self-contruction and the Politics of Modernism by Ivor Powell,

(1995) in Persons and Pictures, Newtown Galleries, pp. 12-25:


In bringing these two references together Kwami is doing something that is ambiguous and, on one level at least, subversive of the western art discourse. When Picasso and Brancusi and the Europeans borrowed from African Art, they were doing something that was nevertheless located inside the history of Western art. Inside their work the African icons no longer meant the same things that they did in their original context. But in Kwami’s appropriation, the final nature of the work remains ambiguous. Is he a Western-trained artist, appropriating the Asante design within the discourse of Modernist art? Or is he as an African appropriating the look of Mondrian within a specifically African context?

I ask these questions merely rhetorically of course. The point is precisely that in the contemporary context, the African modernist is precisely that: irreducibly African and irreducibly modernist. Hence the abstracts of Kwami speak as eloquently of the organic lines and spaces of west African architecture as they do of the formal values associated in modernism with the two-dimensional canvas. The point is that according to the tenets of modernist art, that are emblematic of the artist’s consciousness and that consciousness, like that of Africa in general is a seamless amalgam of Western and African elements. In Kwami’s happy phrase: the continuing traditions of African art.

Ivor Powell




Gabada, 2012, oil on canvas, 51.3 x 51.3 cm


11 October 2012-15 March 2013, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge





Grace has many meanings, elegant proportions, charm, easy and refined motions, divine influence, thanksgiving, delay granted. It was the first name of my mother-in-law, Grace Salome Kwami to whom this exhibition is dedicated.

Pamela Clarkson, 2012




Koo Nimo, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50.5 cm


Multiple Exhibitions Highlighting Ghanaian Contemporary Arts


Tradition & Innovation: Batik yardage by Dorothy Akpene Amenuke; Adinkra cloth from the Boakye Family Workshop


Place to Place: Recent paintings and prints by Atta Kwami and Pamela Clarkson


20 November – 4 December 2011, Common Wealth Gallery

Presented by the UW-Madison Design Gallery


Listen, Listen: Adadam Agofoma

A fine-press book by Take Time Press

1 November-31 December 2011

Kohler Art Library


Koo Nimo

In concert with Atimevu Drum and Dance Ensemble

4 December 2011

UW-Madison Music Hall



Organised by Prof. Mary Hark, Design Studies Department and Prof. Henry Drewal,  Department of Art History; Design Gallery, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


FABRICATION – Ghana – UK – France


Afuya, 2010, acrylic on linen, 125.7 x 120.7 cm

Galerie Vidal Saint-Phalle, Paris


15 FÉVRIER – 30 MARS 2013


10, rue du Trésor 75004 – PARIS



A common compositional scheme for my painting is the exploration and exploitation of the horizontal and vertical register. A link to the design of strip-woven cloth is inevitable. Besides invoking the palette of Ghanaian kente, the work hints at the frailty of human life, especially in Africa. Poverty is the only thing that money cannot buy. The voice of the poor can always be felt in the way they can transform their surroundings with dignity through personal aesthetics. I note the way environments can be transformed with very little by taking photographs or by drawing: ironically this engagement enriches my artistic life.

When I paint, I am sometimes in a trance; other times it feels like a conversation between myself and the materials; or with other artists alive and dead, African and non-African.The artist in the studio is alone. The usual ruses to make conversation with others are not possible but dialogue with materials sets in motion a vehicle for argument and counter-argument.

Atta Kwami, Cambridge, 2012


Fabrication 2013

Dr Atta Kwami (Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Research Fellow and Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, Cambridge) ; chaired by Dr Augustus Casely-Hayford (CAS Research Associate)

Date: 7 March 2013 Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 7 March 2013 Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: 4421

Type of Event:

Series: Africa Seminars series