Kensu Oteng presents We Find What We Seek25/05/2021 - 05/06/2021
Kensu Oteng presents We Find What We Seek, a group exhibition showcasing four emerging artists from West Africa. For Ben Agbee (b.1966; lives and works in Accra, Ghana), James Mishio (b.1997; lives and works in Accra, Ghana), Theophilus Tetteh (b.1991; lives and works in Accra, Ghana) and Jimas Ametonou (b.1993; lives and work in Cotonou, Benin), this group presentation is their first in London.
Anchored in the truisms of the human experience, this exhibition reduces, refines, and redirects our attention back to the reality of our collective being. Simply, this exhibition focuses on the quotidian habits performed universally, condensed into four categories: Work, Family, Leisure, and Entertainment. Each category is a reminder that the essence of our connectivity – simultaneously as individuals within our local communities, and as individuals present within a wider ecosystem of cultural production – is contained within that which is physical, imbued by the human thought and spirit.
The title of the exhibition, presupposes that no matter which geographical, philosophical, or spiritual planes we transverse, the bonds we create are not formed by proximity but rather commonality. Ben Agbee’s colourful contortions are an ode to the characters which make up our communities; with women, children, and animals as pillars of strength and sustenance. His use of intense colours, applied with delicate precision, coupled with his signature use of symbolism, form complex yet coherent compositions of cultural nuance.
This translation of culture onto canvas is recognisable within James Mishio’s portraiture and figurative paintings which, as he describes, captures the “mood of the moment”. His ability to communicate the multitude of human temperaments with a revelatory realism, subjects the viewer to a place of quiet introspection, where the personality of the sitter transmits itself through the richly textured impasto.
Theophilus Tetteh’s work combines the dramatic and intimate to portray transient tales of city life. His figures, which at times stand solo and at other times are accompanied by large crowds, offer an enchanting spontaneity where the subject appears to be captured within the bustling environment and time is momentarily paused. The architectural framework Tetteh employs brings his characters front and centre, as though to accurately make known their particularity; of that which is obvious and hidden. Jimas Ametonou’s meditative compositions abstract the subject from their locality and reposition them within a realm in which their reality is restructured through a universal lens.
These subjects exist, not as effects of their environment, but rather the source of its creation. As the curator of the show and the founder of the eponymous gallery Kensu Oteng suggests that: “Art, as a communicative act, allows us to acquire knowledge of oneself through the lens of another. In this, art takes on a transformative role by assembling our differences into a unified narrative that offers clarity to the multitudes of our life experiences. This exhibition, through its exploration of our duty to work, our obligations to family, the necessity of leisure, and the cathartic release of entertainment, contemplates our collective participation in the forging of our reality.”
Alongside the contemporary artworks, Kensu Oteng presents traditional antiques from across the African continent. When asked about the motivation behind the unconventional approach of presenting emerging contemporary creations with antique works, founder Kensu Oteng answers: “The combination of art from emerging contemporary artists with antiques is a philosophical and practical choice. Philosophical because I believe one must ground themselves in the past for clarity of the future, in this case, we learn how contemporary artists on the continent are guided with the same intentionality as unknown makers that came before them. It is also practical because it addresses how we display and contextualise- or decontextualise- works in order to make their meaning digestible. In We Find What We Seek, I wish to stay true to the function of the works.”
Having been a part of the arts and heritage field, both in an academic and professional respect, Kensu Oteng set out to bridge that in which he had learnt and loved. After graduating the University of Southampton with a degree in Archaeology and English- with years of experience in handling and documenting material culture on domestic and international fieldworks- Kensu Oteng continued his interest in cultural heritage by working for English Heritage. His time at Kenwood House confirmed his passion for art and antiques, and so with that he began to expand his knowledge; seeking out the advice and guidance of dealers, collectors, scholars, and most importantly doing his own research. It was with this he recognised African art and antiques resonated with him the most- ultimately making a connection with his own Ghanaian heritage.
“For the future, I hope to continue to offer a space for ideas to be pursued and artists to evolve. I like to think of this as a continuum model, in which knowledge is built upon and then translated into something meaningful” adds Kensu Oteng.
The exhibition We Find What We Seek will be held from 25 May to 5 June 2021. For more information, please visit Kensu Oteng‘s website or contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.