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Prempeh In You Were, You Are, And You Always Will Be

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
11 September 2022   |   4:03 am
In the art world, there is a gaping gender imbalance, when it comes to male and female artists. Internationally, roughly 90 per cent of all artworks exhibited in major collections are by men.

And So On, 2022, Oil, Acrylic, Iron Powder and Imitation Gold Leaf on Canvas with projection, 320 x 200 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary.

In the art world, there is a gaping gender imbalance, when it comes to male and female artists. Internationally, roughly 90 per cent of all artworks exhibited in major collections are by men.

Though, gender discrimination in art comes not from personal aesthetic preference –many think paintings are more valuable and famous when painted by male artists.

Tiwani Gallery is, however, disproving this thinking with a reputation for exhibiting works of an impressive array of female artists. In 10 years that it has operated, female artists have remained exceptional, and breaking the glass ceiling.

From the gallery’s outdooring with the British-Nigerian painter, Joy Labinjo, whose show, Full Ground, was curated by Nigerian-American artist and curator, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, to the second show titled, The Company She Keeps, which had Chioma Ebinama, Miranda Forrester, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Nengi Omuku and Charmaine Watkiss, its two shows in Lagos gallery have oozed quality and panache.

This rich seam is what Emma Prempeh, the inaugural Tiwani Contemporary artist in residence at the G.A.S. (Guest Artists Space), Lagos, is offering in her show titled, You Were, You Are, And You Always Will Be, which opened yesterday, September 10, 2022. The exhibition ends October 28, 2022.

The show is a dream come true for the Greek gallerist, Maria Varnava, who lived in Nigeria as a child but now resides in England, where she founded Tiwani Gallery in 2012.

Since the Nigerian branch, Tiwani Contemporary, started in February 2022, the 2,000 square ft. purpose-built exhibition space has become a ‘diasporic consult’. And as a home to diasporan arts, the work in its sleuth has gravitated to the best of contemporary Africa.

The Lagos gallery is a demonstration of a cultural and social integration suggesting that talented artists are no longer only men or remain outside the continent. Now they have to come ‘home’ and find a place in the evolving cultural movement.

The British artist, Prempeh, with Ghanaian and Vincentian heritage, who is based in London, in her new show, analyses existential questions that are projected upon her reality; the fear of death, memory and ancestral ties.

Installation work at the show

“You Were, You Are, And You Always Will Be is a recent body of works representing my exploration of interior spaces pictorially colliding with aspects of my personal history. My thoughts whilst making this series were to build an environment around these moments to physically weave around and between, to grasp moments of familiarity, expectation and nostalgia. My reflections are about how we exist within spaces of (in) tangible realities that are present and simultaneously experienced as metaphysical: spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental,” she says.

She, occasionally, experiments with projected still and moving imagery to create painting installations that invite other experiential and performative encounters with her work enabling time shifts between ghostly canvases that have a double life through video.

Prempeh, a standard bearer for the gallery in Lagos, brings some glimpses of her talent, with a promise to be at the summit sooner than imagined.

She studied at the Goldsmiths College, University of London, graduating in 2019, and going on to win the Alumno/Space bursary award for 2020. She also won first place for the Ingram Collection Purchase Prize and became a participating artist in Bloomberg New contemporaries 2019.

Recently, she attended MA Painting class at the Royal College of Art under the LeverHulme Trust Arts Scholarship winning the Valerie Beston Trust Arts award for 2022.

IN this new show, the artist captures a distinct new chapter in the interrogation of history. It has ability to create a fascinating and fertile mix of the old and new.

Memories inspire nostalgia, and You Were, You Are, And You Always Will Be is held in a space poetically circumscribed by ode and elegy to family, and to friendships.

“The artists’ re-presentations of events extracted from family and personal photographs are a commentary on the circularity and malleability of time and memory, and how these visual queries can prompt unexpected answers, interpretations, or evolve new questions that resurface as embodied, philosophical, or material embellishment in the experience of them,” the gallery reveals in its statement .

Poetic, and as well, actionist, the starting point to her paintings for the show is “the matter of blackness – the tonal properties of the colour establishes the ground to her paintings and a cinematic basis to invoke and project memories of events, people and places to emphasise an appreciation of ancestral time and relationships, selfhood and transformation.

Prempeh

Her paintings project warm, darkened earthly tones marking time through the recurrence of calendars, clocks and bodies.

“Partially defined figures and objects float freely through the space they inhabit amongst hints of Schlag metal, a brass alloy of copper and zinc imitative of gold leaf, a material that Prempeh applies to selected areas of her often large-scale paintings. The schlag delineates the transitional journey between life and death.

“Over time, this oxidises creating slow, live visual changes that animate the image and create a meta-narrative around human experiences of the passing of time, memory and its representation. The material deteriorates, suggestive of the ineluctable passing of time.”

RECENT exhibitions include a solo show in 2021, titled, In and Out of Time. The show held at the Ada\Contemporary Art Gallery, Accra, Ghana. She equally had a solo show titled, Raise Your Glass, in 2020, which held at the Lightbox Gallery and Museum, Woking. The Faces of Love, V.O Curations Post Residency Solo Show, Marylebone, London (solo – 2020); On Love, Home by Ronan Mckenzie, Islington, London (group – 2022); Friends and Family, Pi Artworks, Fitzrovia, London (group – 2022); At Peace, Gillian Jason Gallery, Fitzrovia, London (group – 2021); Mother of Mankind, Ada \ Contemporary Gallery, X Hofa Gallery, Mayfair, London (group – 2021); Onward and Upward-Art in The Garden of Life, Droog Gallery, 7a Staalstraat, Amsterdam (group – 2020); Redressing the Balance #woman Artists, The Lightbox, Woking (group – 2020); Bloomberg New Contemporaries, South London Gallery, London (group – 2020) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds (group – 2019).

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