CORNELIUS ANNOR: MEMORIES WE SHARE
Maruani Mercier, Kustlaan 90 in Knokke
Two Black Maidens, 2022
Strictly speaking, memory involves individual consciousness. Many sociologists, however, insist that it is a social experience. In her essay The Site of Memory, African-American writer Toni Morrison defines memory as the recollection of an image and the feelings that accompany it, necessary to recreate the world in which her ancestors lived. This reconstruction is based on collective memory, an approach contemplated in the work of Ghanaian artist Cornelius Annor.
In his debut exhibition with Maruani Mercier Gallery entitled Memories We Share, Cornelius Annor reflects on life’s most memorable moments as well as its ordinary ones. Weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, and family gatherings take centre stage: viewing Annor’s body of work is like turning the leaves of a family album.
Sir Johns, 2021
The artist plays with history and temporality in his compositions, merging elements from both his family and friends’ photographs, from the past and present. Some source photos were taken at family events, while others in a typical West-African style portrait studio reminiscent of works by Nigerian photographer Samuel Fosso and the Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. Though there are noticeable aesthetic similarities, Annor adds a touch of his personal universe, including hi-fi equipment, miscellaneous home objects, elaborate wallpapers, vintage furniture, and clothing from different eras throughout his vibrantly coloured tableaus.
Inspired by the British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s practice utilising traditional wax fabrics, the textiles and their motifs found in Annor’s paintings refer both to his West African heritage and personal collection, adding a more intimate overtone. His unique fabric transfer method—in which it is imposed on the canvas for several hours—leaves a faded remnant of the fabric’s pattern, visually metaphorizing the absence of context from the photographs he uses.
Aketesia, 2022/Reflection, 2022
Another striking, stylistic element unique to Annor’s work is the disruption of depth and perspective. This is achieved both through his signature fabric transfer method and the application of collage techniques which distort reality in order to tell his story. These collage-based references call to mind Derek Fordjour’s colourful, texture-heavy creations.
It was the death of Annor’s sculptor father that sparked his personal desire to reconnect with family members on that side. During the preparation of his own wedding, he realised the importance of his family’s archives which now provide an abundance of material for his paintings. Though viewers are unfamiliar with Annor’s subjects, they are engaged in retrieving their own family histories and memories.
Annor says about his practice: “For me archiving as an art form has the potential to open up discussions on lost and forgotten histories and its politics. I intend to bring into existence these past histories through my works as a way of creating a room of memory which can migrate my audience to a particular moment in time and reflect on themselves.”
Born and based in Accra, Ghana to a family of artists, Cornelius Annor started painting at a very young age, largely influenced by his father. He completed his studies in fine art at the Ghanatta Art and Design Institute, along with fellow alumni Amoako Boafo, Otis Quiacoe, and Kwesi Botchway, who collectively represent a vanguard of West African artists. Annor established ‘C.Annor studio’ in his hometown, a space dedicated to encouraging and supporting young talents and emerging artists. His work has been extensively exhibited throughout West Africa and in the United States, and recently was acquired by the Norton Museum of Art in Florida.
Memories We Share is devoted to memory, whether it is the artist’s own or shared amongst family members, friends, or viewers.