Monday, 27 October 2014

Revelation at Owusu-Ankomah : Microcron Begins

Revelation at Owusu-Ankomah : Microcron Begins Exhibition at the October Gallery, London


"Amidst the galaxy of forms it appeared to me, the distillation of a lifetime of effort.....the Microcron constellation"

I had a revelation on the 25th of October 2014.

I was led to better appreciate the limitations of the corner of the universe that I occupy.

This expansion of understanding of the conscription of my knowledge is also framed by a sharper awareness of the fact that I am not sufficiently informed to appreciate those boundaries because of the inadequacy of my frames of reference.

How is one to grasp the limitations of one’s knowledge if one is not aware of the scope of what is to be known?

I was privileged to see the exhibition of paintings, “Owusu-Ankomah : Microcron Begins”, on its closing day at the October Gallery, London, the 25th of October 2014 (

My encounter with the paintings, with Chili Hawes, the Gallery director and her friends, with Alana Pryce Tojcic, the artistic director, and Nichol, the receptionist, human interactions which gave me a little insight into the spirit involved in the management of such treasures of achievement as the paintings represent, my brief visit to the nearby Warburg Institute, embodying, in another context, the conjunction of image and ideation that animates Owosu-Ankomah’s work and the institutional environment required to adequately distill the significance of such work,  and my serendipitous meeting with Jotham Munyarai on the train to London, discussing the potentially self empowering and world shaping impact of one’s ambitions, ensured that the man, myself, who went to London on the fateful 25th was not the same man who returned from London.

The world characterized by my perceptions has undergone a permanent shift, like a heretofore immobile celestial body shifting decisively on its axis.

I used to think I had been considerably exposed to the work of Owusu-Ankomah, placing me in a position to make some statements of significance about it.

I have been very proud of having contributed an essay to the monumental book on his art, Owusu-Ankomah:Microcron Begins,  accompanying the multi-continent exhibition, recurrently pointing out this input to people.

I now realize that, having relied wholly on pictures for my knowledge of the artist’s work, I was equivalent to a person viewing a magnificent room and the intricate sublimity of its contents from the opening in a small keyhole, the details of these contents obscured, dwarfed to my vision on account of the distances created by the immensity of the space within which they are located.

 I could see the objects only in terms of dim outlines, with the few more brightly coloured creations being easier to perceive in their essential forms, while the greater number of constructs, less colourful but more intricate, being only occasionally perceptible in their complex and subtle symmetry, this greater number of structurations being as clear in their distinctiveness as the starry sky seen within a dim pool of water.

My previous acquaintance with the artist’s work is like perceiving a dot in the night sky which is the best one can see of the light of a giant star on account of the vast distance the light has travelled to reach terrestrial eyes, a journey commencing at the beginning of time, but reaching the earth only in the 21st century, having crossed space at the speed of light, the fastest speed known to humanity.

The technology might not yet exist to visualize most of Owusu-Ankomah’s paintings in a form that can suggest, talk less represent accurately, their glory.

As it is, I was privileged to walk into a small, but significantly representative section of the vast space of realization embodied by the artist’s work to date, the sheer volume of his productivity making the marvelous offering at the exhibition a small fraction of the whole.

Everything written up till this point about Owusu-Ankomah, on a scale of 1-10 of possibilities of explication, in which 10 stands for infinity, since the work’s possibilities of explication are infinite, may be likened to the first emergence into visibility of forms hitherto hidden in the myriad multiplications of micro-organismic entities, or to put it another way, the expression of the possibility of the existence of the universe, at the dawn of time, as different from the materialization of the universe itself, a preliminary sonic throbbing that suggests the mighty magnificence slowly palpating into being.

All expositions so far of Owusu-Ankomah’s work are at best basic groundwork, laying of skeletal foundations, the construction of an antechamber, a foyer from which people may walk into the grand hall yet to be fashioned.

What quality of his work inspires these superlatives?

It is not simply the sheer numerical scope or even the majestic size of some of the paintings.

It is the living texture he has created from canvas, like the shaping of an organic universe of his own, constituted by its own unique life forms, suggested by the rippling concreteness of space in dialogue with human and geometric forms, across a symphonic rhythm between works at various scales.

It was the texture of the paintings’ surfaces and the vivid power of the images that first astonished me.

His greater body of work is a sequence of paintings in stark black and white, but the intricate symmetry and sheer visual potency of these works never emerge in any pictures, online or in print.

That means 90%, if not more, of the power of the artist’s work is lost in translation from canvas to representational image.

Could a hologram, solve this problem, projecting images of the works in three dimensions?

Would the images on which the holograms are based be able to capture the dynamism of the network constituted by the raised surfaces of the paintings, surfaces that demonstrate a palpitating tactility, a physicality inviting caresses, a texture evocative of the dynamic surfaces of rock and organic forms?

Would such attempts at recreating the art be able to project its suggestion of living space?

Would it be able to make vivid the resonance between a sense of biological dynamism and the dialectic of the anthropomorphic and the abstract, the rhythm of the human form and the symbols in terms of which the human being distills cognition, the relationships between abstraction and concreteness that is core to Owusu-Ankomah’s work?

An ideal representation of such art would be a form of virtual reality that can simulate the organicity of the paintings’ surfaces, enabling one to both see and touch the works, though in terms of a simulacrum, a physical and a visual encounter that takes one closer to living imaginatively in the work of art, achieving an increasingly intimate bond with it as a concretization of cognitive possibility.

Who knows, perhaps such a visual and tactile engagement with the works could lead one to a transformative mental state in which one experiences oneself as living inside the work of art, encountering its human figures as living forms, perhaps even knowing oneself as those forms, engaged in the quest for meaning that Owusu-Ankomah’s work dramatizes, to the degree that such an ontological miracle is possible.

Can such near ultimate encounter with art be simulated through technology, thereby facilitating an understanding of the cognitive quest the art represents?

I dream of buying all Owusu-Ankomah’s paintings and housing them in a gallery designed for the permanent display of his work.

The work needs to be seen in its entirety, face to face, for its overwhelming power to be experienced in a way that does justice to its stupendous vision.

Meanwhile, it is imperative one takes time to relate with these paintings individually, as intimately as possible, spending a day, a week or more, interacting with one painting at a time, meditating on it in its primary presence, not the secondary presence of a representational image, so as to begin to attune properly with its wealth of figural and abstract symbolism.

Such intimacy of relationship needs to be complemented with breadth and depth of scholarship in global symbolism, religious, scientific, philosophical, artistic, and more perhaps, so as to help develop a conceptual and expressive base to give voice, as one is able to hear it at the intersection of generic and individual understanding, to the song resonating from the symphony constituted by the human-abstract dramatization that is the work of Owusu-Ankomah.

A gallery devoted to his work could change its displays from time to time to depict the various patterns, the different interpretive vantage points in terms of which the artist’s work can be perceived.

Displays of his Owusu-Ankomah’s could also include exhibitions that demonstrate the prismatic range of his creativity in its potential for interaction with other artists and disciplines with whom his work may be related through a variety of associations.

Such exhibitions could make explicit the artist’s dialogues with masters that have shaped his work at the intersection of human physicality and ideation, such as Michelangelo Buonarroti’s creations suggestive of Neo-Platonic expressions of abstract ideal in material embodiment and of the perfection of the soul expressed in the human body, Auguste Rodin and his evocation of thought through the dynamism of the male form, William Blake and his mythic masculinities within the context of his elaborately verbalized philosophy, among others.

Other exhibitions could correlate Owusu-Ankomah’s art with creativity across different disciplines addressing similar subjects as he does at  the intersection of human embodiment and cosmological possibility.

These include the verbal art of Dante Aligheri, the consummating vision of his cosmological narrative the Divine Comedy, in its integration of human form and the image of the circle as demonstrating human situatedness within infinity, converging with Owusu-Ankomah’s similar visualization in the Microcron symbolism that entices the questing human figures in his paintings.

Another possible correlation is with the scientific cosmology of Michael Faux and Sylvester James Gates, who use their self-created Adinkra mathematical symbols in exploring the character of the universe.

Their work references classical Adinkra symbolism in terms of visual similarity and the scientists’ guiding philosophy of knowledge, classical Adinkra being an inspirational matrix for Owusu-Ankomah in the journeys within cosmological space his art depicts in terms of human interaction with a variety of symbols.

Other contextualization of Owusu-Ankomah’s work could include juxtapositions with other artists demonstrating humanity’s engagement with symbols across time, as in the continuity between symbolic representation in classical and modern African and Asian art, represented, for example, by Victor Ekpuk’s transformation of Nigerian Nsibidi symbolism and Sohan Qadri’s recreation  of Asian Tantric iconography.

The director of the October Gallery, Chili Hawes, the artistic director, Alana Pryce Tojcic and the receptionist, Nichol, were all wonderful in their reception of me, Chilli even giving me some memorable food and drink, on the house, all of them identifying with my efforts to make a video of the exhibition and my response to it, a video I intend to present on YouTube, hoping it came out well since I have not used that camera for some time.

It is most helpful to undergo experiences that help one appreciate the inadequacies of one’s position, in general, and in particular instances, so that one may better understand the scope of what one needs to achieve, the kind of experience represented by my visit to the “Owusu-Ankomah : Microcron Begins” exhibition at the October Gallery.

Image source :

Source : October Gallery


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