Atta Kwami
Maria Lassnig Prize Mural

6 September 2022 - 3 September 2023
Solo exhibition

Serpentine Gallery, London, UK

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In partnership with the Maria Lassnig Foundation, Serpentine presents a public art mural by the late painter, printmaker, independent art historian, and curator Atta Kwami (1956 – 2021).

With a career spanning 40 years, Kwami’s practice brought together painting, architecture, sculpture, and education. Born in Accra, Ghana he trained and taught for 20 years at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Kwami lived primarily in Kumasi and later in Loughborough, UK, keeping a studio in both cities and drawing inspiration for his paintings from both global and local art histories and traditions. His compositions of geometric strips, stripes and grids particularly connect to Northern Ghanaian wall and house painting, street vendor kiosks, commercial sign painting, woven textiles, Ghanaian music, and jazz.

Alongside making paintings, prints and artist’s books, Kwami also became known for painting constructions – kiosks and archway sculptures – that were conceived as expanded three-dimensional paintings within outdoor spaces. The commission originates from a painting on canvas that Kwami reworked in his studio in 2021, shortly before his death – making this the final, landmark public work of his pioneering career. Designed in dialogue with the North Gallery Garden, the mural Dzidzɔ kple amenuveve (Joy and Grace), 2021-22, embodies the artist’s vibrant palette and fluid abstract painting style. Its title is in Ewe, a West African language spoken by Kwami, and its composition characteristically plays with the colour and form improvisations distinctive to Ghanaian architecture and strip-woven textiles found across the African continent, especially kente cloth from the Ewe and Asante people of Ghana.

The mural is painted on wood – the surface Kwami used for outdoor constructions – by artist Pamela Clarkson, Kwami’s widow who shared a studio with him for over 30 years, and designer Andy Philpott, his friend and collaborator on constructions in Amsterdam, Folkestone and Loughborough.

Image: Atta Kwami, DzidzƆ kple amenuveve (Joy and Grace), 2021, Photo: Sumiko Eadon

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