What inspires your “negative” themes? Abuse, torture, tears, etc and how interested are art lovers in that please? / by Dela Anyah

Thanks for your question. If you study art history, you would realize that majority of works that have been done as far as art history can go are characterized by what you call “negative” themes. From the gorgeous and very detailed paintings of Jesus crucified on the cross that many have in their homes, to African Art masterpieces used during ritual ceremonies, to Picasso’s Guernica which was in response to the bombing of Guernica to the numerous paintings of Judith beheading Holofernes, to Francis Bacon’s works on death, to  Damien Hirst themes on death, and the list can go on. Actually many have had death as a theme. But why? What many people don’t immediately realize is that art is a way of capturing what’s happening in the times we live in. As Nina Simone put it, how can you be an artist and not reflect the times you live in?  Let me just share a transcription of her interview. 

Nina Simone: An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.

Sometimes art captures the artists innermost tensions and other times it captures the pains and hurts in the world, with a message of hope to all who see these works. We live in a time where rape cases are on the rise, homes/families are getting broken, Parents are worried about their kids, from molestation in dorm rooms to drugs and other social vices that destroy the lives of we the young ones, in Ghana people lost their jobs due to the shaking up of the financial sector......These people, art lovers or not, are alone in their rooms in search of a message that will calm the tensions in their minds. These people require the help of NGO’s who also need funding and money to help. Some of these paintings which were done in partnership with NGO’s capture what many on the streets don’t know about: and that is the pain others are going through. How can we empathize when we do not know? And how can we get help when the subject we seek to discuss is a forbidden one? Abuse is real, but how will you know when no one talks about it, when no one stands up to communicate it? We live in a society where everyone is trying to look good and act like they don’t have problems. That doesn’t help: pain is real. And it needs solutions else we going to have not just a society of depressed people, but a society of dead people. 

You, me or anyone else who has probably battled suicidal thoughts before will attest to the fact that without the new mental health awareness springing up, many will just be suffering. Is painting images about mental health “negative”? Will that empower victims? Will that help fund charities? To the question about what inspires me, I will say people and myself. People who have opened up to me about their struggles and their pain know I am speaking to and for them. What I do is more about change makers than art lovers. A change maker sees beyond a painting and sees a tool of empowerment, an art lover may love the creativity and emotion behind the work only and may like a picture of the painting on instagram but then it ends there. But a change-makers will not just love a post, but like an activist will get one of these works knowing that, his/her purchase doesn’t only support change but also acts as a tool of empowerment to drive them to make the world better; and its change makers who have bought my “Beauty from Chaos” works. 

Beauty from Chaos, an art movement as I like to call it, is all about creating beauty out of chaos (discarded materials or rubbish), and using that beauty (the work of art) to speak life into people going through chaotic experiences. This is the foundation of my works. 

Thank you for your question. My question to you now is: what do you stand for?