ERASED PAST

Serge Attukwei Clottey
21 APRIL - 27 MAY 2022
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Brigade is pleased to present Erased Past – an exhibition by Serge Attukwei Clottey (Accra, Ghana, 1985) that explores the sociopolitical, economic, environmental, and cultural legacies of the colonial projects in Africa.  

 
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EXHIBITION TEXT

The son of an artist, Clottey started painting at a young age, learning first from his father before attending and graduating from the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Ghana. Following a fortunate encounter online, Clottey was able to further his studies in Brazil; an experience which changed his perspectives and led him to the community and environmentally oriented practice he is now renowned for. 

Clottey grew up in the traditional extended family structures of Ghana, where essentially all adults take part in the upbringing of all children within the community, and Clottey’s practice is hugely influenced by the sense of community this instilled in him. From the sourcing of materials to the production process, Clottey’s practice is more like a communal act than an individual's work. Even the politics of trade, environment, and histories explored in the work, start with a sense of family and the community Clottey was raised in, highlighting his firm belief that in every artistic expression, the subject matter is the starting point in creating a shared understanding. 

Clottey’s perhaps most famous works are the yellow tapestry pieces and installations that are the at the centre of his Afrogallonism project. The primary materials of these pieces are sourced from Kufuor gallons, or jerrycans, originally introduced by Europeans to Ghana to transport cooking oil, but which have been repurposed locally for a variety of uses, becoming patinated by the personal narratives of the people who have used them.  

 

Finding their next use in Clottey’s hands, the yellow plastic gallons are cut into strips and interlaced with jute sacks and found objects to produce artworks which often allude to cultural references such as the Ghanaian kente motif. The gallons are both a reminder of how our pasts erratically manifest themselves, and of how the life of materials, or even of ourselves, can be extended and turned into a force for the positive, regardless of their origin or previous use. 

In general, the materials Clottey chooses for his works are chosen for their significance to the idea and the journey Clottey is exploring in a specific work, interlacing his own exploration with the histories of the objects. It is this process of transformation and repurposing that forms the very fabric of Clottey’s art; challenging pre-set narratives, while allowing for new ideas and identities to form. 

This is evident not only in Clottey’s tapestries, but also in the large tondo charcoal drawings, and works on linen, that reference historical African photography and western impressions of African culture. By examining personal adornments such as hairstyles, Clottey counters simplistic narratives while tracing cultural histories that exist outside of archival records. The juxtaposition of the figures’ intense subjectivity and the vibrant clothing amplify that the black bodies are their own and through their assertion of independence, they push beyond antiquated notions of personhood. 

Working from both African traditional perspectives and his own contemporary ones, Clottey is able to describe how the African historical relationship with Europeans is interlinked through identity building, trade and materials, with a perspective that is forward looking and visionary. 

Reacting with art that not only calls for awareness by exposing environmental problems, but also inspires the human spirit by calling people to action, Clottey wants to help build the foundations of a re-imagined community where we conserve, recycle, and respect each other unhinged by our pasts. 

Clottey studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Ghana and the Escola Guindard University of Art in Brazil. In 2019 Clottey received an Honorary Doctorate of Art from the University of Brighton. 

 

Clottey’s work has recently been presented in solo exhibitions at The  Mistake Room, Los Angeles; Ever Gold [Projects], San Francisco; Gallery 1957, Accra; Gnyp, Berlin; Lorenzelli  Arte, Milan; Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium Foundation, Oslo. His works have been included in recent group  exhibitions at Desert X, Palm Desert; Christie’s Beverly Hills, Los Angeles; The Moody Center, Rice University,  Houston; Iziko South Africa National Gallery, Cape Town; UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles. More recently, Clottey showed his abstract and expansive sculptural installation made out of flattened, yellow Kuffuor gallon containers at Desert X AlUla 2022. 

For a full list of works exhibited please contact gallery@brigade.site

 

WORKS