Interview: Lawrence Kwakye
Luca Curci talks with Lawrence Kwakye during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Lawrence Kwakye (1972, Utrecht) painted his first painting when he was thirteen and with it, unknowingly opened the door to his artistic career. The famous writer and illustrator Tomi Ungerer called him an “undeniable talent” at the time and compared him to the main character in Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger”. As the son of a Ghanaian father and Hungarian mother, raised in the Netherlands, he was constantly exposed to surprises and changes in life and as such automatically developed a ‘contrasting’ view of the world, essential for the magical layering in his later work. Nothing is what you think it is. After secondary school, Lawrence completed his study ‘Man and Leisure time’ at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, where Lidewij Edelkoort was a guiding force. Unmistakable heritage from that time is the functional and conceptual impact of the many paintings he continued to create alongside his job as a designer. Until 2010 when he changed course, established himself as an independent artist and his artistic career gained momentum. Kwakye’s cultural diversity, his sense of aesthetics, his technical innovative drive and his fascination for transition, or in other words the process of change is clearly reflected in his current work. The result is accessible, the viewer picks it up straight away, but then seduces him into a discussion about what you actually see; it is what it is. Harmony versus disharmony. Kwakye’s visual work keeps on communicating.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Lawrence Kwakye – Since 2013 I have developed a style that I call ‘Imprint’. At the time I was experimenting with raw and natural materials like raw linen and jute. I once found a pile of rolls of old carpet along the way. It caught my eye because I saw a beautiful ocker and rust colour that turned out to be the burlap underside of a carpet. The carpet was partly torn and had holes from being pulled off and removed from a home. I then loosened the jute fabric from the top of the floor covering and thus discovered the desired surface for my paintings. In the meantime, I have experimented in many ways with the jute fabrics that I nowadays pull apart myself. My latest generation of paintings and photos based on my Imprint technique are more abstract and in colour, the fabrics I use for this are made of cotton gauze instead of jute.
LC – What is art for you?
LK – My latest statement about art is: “Art is the potential story ready for the viewer to explore”.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it reasoned or an instinctive process?
LK – Actually, it is both. I move back and forth starting with intuition, followed by a process of analyzing what I have discovered and translating it into images that prompt me to delve deeper into the meaning of what I am trying to imagine at the moment. It is mainly an associative process in which I try to get a story to the surface.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
LK – In general, it can be said that my work is an exploration of the position of man. I mainly focus on the meaning of its (survival) as a species on earth and I wonder how long a person can remain part of the ecological system in which he lives. Perhaps man’s greatest enemy is the man himself, who no longer settles for his limitations and adapts himself through his technologies to replace his kind.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
LK – I would say that my biggest challenge in creating my art is to filter the amount of inspiration and information that I absorb from my environment. Sometimes I want to say too much at once because I actually have too many ideas and I prefer to express them all. Maybe this is a wordy way to say that I have trouble making choices!
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
LK – What inspired me about this festival was its versatility. I am both an artist and a designer and therefore felt appealed to me as a designer by the visionary approach.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
LK – In the artworks that I show in the exhibition, you see people who are literally and figuratively involved in an existential struggle. Foreground and background are intertwined with the figuration of the human being, which sometimes seems to disappear into the background. In the work “The last Human” I want to bring human dependence to the fore by showing a
combative human who tries to break free from his limitations. What makes these works special are the techniques that have been applied. The two photos (“The Thinker female” and “male”) are printed on mirror perspex which gives an extra depth effect and the painting “The last Human” is an oil painting in my special Imprint textile style combined with a photo of empty retail space. Here photography and painting come together.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
LK – I think basically the event was organized well but because of the difficult conditions due to the COVID, I was unable to experience the full potential of the event.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
LK – I think the service of making an interview or video interview with the artist is interesting but might be explored more. I can imagine making a video of artists that come together interviewing each other in an exhibition space. This might be more dynamic than an interview with two.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
LK – Yes, I think so, but at the same time, I wonder how big an event should be or on what scale should be communicated. How can an artist stand out with a wide range of art and events and fairs at the moment?