Cornelius Annor, "Onipa Akoma," 2023. Acrylic, fabric and fabric transfer on canvas; 83 1/2 x 118 1/2 in (212 x 304 cm). Courtesy the artist and Venus Over Manhattan, New York.
By Balasz Takac
While modern technology and digital media have expanded the ways artists can tell stories, painting remains a powerful tool for visual storytelling. In today's world, where underrepresented voices still struggle to be heard, painting continues to offer a unique platform for depicting the complexities of the human experience. While it may not be as widely appreciated as it once was, the enduring relevance of painting lies in its ability to capture and convey emotion, history, and culture in a way that resonates deeply with audiences.
An illustrious example of this enduring relevance can be found in the work of Ghanaian artist Cornelius Annor. Through his figurative paintings, Annor skillfully captures the essence of his subjects, using color, texture, and form to convey the rich cultural heritage of his native Ghana. His work serves as a reminder that painting can still be a powerful tool for representing the stories and experiences of marginalized communities and a means for celebrating and preserving their unique identities.
This March, Venus Over Manhattan in New York will present the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Titled A Fabric of Time and Family, the exhibition will bring together new paintings evocative of gathering, leisure, and a sense of community.
The Figuration of Cornelius Annor
Cornelius Annor is best known for his highly detailed and vividly colored figurative paintings that depict the everyday lives and cultural traditions of the people of Ghana. Characterized by a bold palette, Annor's paintings often feature bold, stylized figures set against vibrant backgrounds that incorporate traditional Ghanaian motifs and symbols.
Annor's paintings are notable for their impressive compositions, which often feature the sway of fabric segments and carefully constructed portions of the canvas. These elements serve as powerful visual symbols that evoke personal and collective stories and memories deeply rooted in West African heritage traditions.
The Work on View
The new body of work is comprised of fifteen paintings that feature scenes inspired by family photo albums, archives, and imaginings. These familial images evoke a sense of nostalgia through a mélange of references derived from classical art and contemporary African portraiture. While some depict Annor’s family and friends, others are inspired by social media and movies.
Explaining the meaning of motifs in his paintings, Annor noted that "some of these West African textiles are kept in family cabinets of curiosities for several years for new generations to see and bond with the past."
"This collision of the album photos and the fabric collage fictionally weaves my person- a history and family story with those of different groups’ family narratives."
Cornelius Annor at Venus Over Manhattan
Cornelius Annor celebrates African culture and Ghanaian lives by melding the past, present, and future in a masterful manner saturated with emotion, sympathy and pride. Talking about his artistic vision, the artist explained:
"Because most of the positive images of Black people focus on the African American story, I would like what I am creating right now to depict positive imagery of Africa and Ghana. I want people to change their view about our beautiful continent."