A portrait inspired by the vivid colors of Los Angeles
In each slice of The artists, T highlights a recent or little-seen work by a black artist, accompanied by a few words from this artist putting the work in context. This week we are looking at a work by the painter Amoako Boafo which appears in his personal exhibition “Singular duality: I can make us, ”On display at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles through November 6.
Name: Amoako Boafo
Situated at: Accra, Ghana and Vienna
Native: Accra, Ghana
Where and when did you do this? In my temporary studio in Los Angeles in the month before my show.
Can you describe what goes on at work? He’s a friend of a friend. I liked the composition of the original photo, so I haven’t changed much. The expression and texture of her hair are exactly the same as in the photo. I changed the colors of his clothes. The way she stands, it’s like asking someone, “What?” What do you want? “Without necessarily saying it. I love when people show such confidence in their posture. Fashion is also a big thing to me: it’s a way of saying something thing without really saying it.
Most of my practice is to focus on a single character controlling the space they are in. I want him to own the space. I usually work from images that subjects already have, because once you tell someone to pose, they’re already thinking about how they want people to see them. My goal is to paint and capture real emotions. And you really get the emotion in the face. So for the face, arms and body, I concentrate by painting with my finger. With finger painting I try to control as much as I can, but there is always an element of surprise. Sometimes I do the skin first and paint the clothes or surroundings last. But other times I need time to think about exactly what I want the facial expression to convey. For me, an empty canvas is a problem. Most of the time I have an immediate solution for how to solve it, by painting this or that color. You know, sometimes you get stuck in front of a single board and feel like you have to solve it before moving on to the next board? I do not do it. It helps me to work on multiple images at the same time. It’s a solution to get me off the ground.
What inspired you to do it? I was recently at the Paul Smith store in LA and there is a really beautiful pink wall. When I got into my studio, I was like, “I’m just going to take this rose and put it in the work.” I often try to take some of the colors around me. LA is very bright – there aren’t a lot of earthy tones – and I wanted to reflect that in my work. When I’m in Vienna, I have to fight to paint yellow, because it’s so calm and gray there. I have to keep reminding myself, “Yeah, it’s gray, but you are beautiful not gray. I always want the backgrounds in my paintings to be energetic, because otherwise it’s just dead space.
What is the work of art in any medium that has changed your life? I love Egon Schiele’s work because you can trace the colors he uses. I can see, “Oh, he had blue here, red here, yellow there.” I love that all of this painting comes together and makes a portrait. Moving to Vienna, where Schiele lived, really changed my perspective on painting. I was exposed to art in a different way. I kept thinking, “How can I unlearn what I’ve learned so that I don’t do exactly what other painters do?” “