Artist Spotlight: Wisdom ‘Wiz’ Kudowor
an exclusive with Wiz Kudowor
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In an exclusive interview, Art Index Africa broke bread with Wiz Kudowor, one of Ghana’s foremost masters. Wiz shares a lifetime of lessons and the essence of his art. I had a great time hosting him, and I think you will find excerpts of our chat penned down below quite intriguing.
About the Artist
Wiz is one of the most celebrated artists in Ghana. He is internationally collected, a master, and highly decorated. Wiz was commissioned to design and execute several public works in Ghana, including the relief mural at Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park; a distinguished monument to some of the most important leaders of his nation. He is proud to portray African culture through his use of symbols, identity, visual language, and mythology.
Now that we have come to know a little bit about our artist in spotlight, let us dive into the details of this exclusive chat with Wiz.
As an artist, how would you define success?
I define success by the longevity and sustained practice of an artist, which culminates in an enduring visibility in the art space. This goes to inform the respect an artist commands among his peers.
That is an interesting take on success. Can you recall the exact moment you felt successful in your career? If you can remember.
I guess I have always felt successful since I have always been recognised and appreciated by the industry and for the longest time, by my mates and contemporaries. My practice has never been built on how much money I made from my craft. Money has never been a yardstick by which I measure my success.
If my definition of success isn’t success, then I suppose I am still waiting for my ‘aha’ moment.
There’s something innate, it seems, in artists that I struggle to find in everyday people. Somehow, artists have hacked this balance as you just expressed. Why do you think that is?
We are free spirits as artists. We embrace difficult times the same way we deal with breakthroughs. The grind is always the same.
What motivates you to create art?
Art has become a habit for me, an integral part of my daily routine. That happens when you have indulged in this practice for the length of time that l have. I do not therefore require outside motivation to create. I am motivated in my waking moments to capture the inner urges that prompt me daily to explore all the senses l am blessed with.
Who would you say are your biggest artistic influences?
At this stage in my career/practice, l am my biggest influence. Anything outside of me will only derail my practice. My work is about the essence of my experiences. Of course, l am impressed by particular works and ideas of some artists.
Artist: Wiz Kudowor |Title: Into the wealthy space | Country: Ghana | Medium: Acrylic on canvas | Dimension: 120 x 150 cm | Year: 2019
“Into the wealthy space takes one on a journey. Vibrant rich colours, symmetrical lines, and exotic symbols of affluence in African traditional patterns underscore this work by Wiz. The rich gold tone characterised by images of dwelling places also symbolises affluence and cultural aesthetics.”
What is your current art trend inspiration?
My inspiration currently derives from spirituality and the essence of life. I attempt to capture that essence by exploring abstract thought and exploring the grey areas between the two states of existence, spiritual and physical.
What factors influence the price of your artwork?
I would definitely say the age of the work, my attachment to it, and then its size, amongst other things. Generally, l just demand what I call my “Happy Money” as the price to be paid for my creativity.
What have collectors and critics said about your work? How did that affect you?
Straight up, l have had interesting comments like,
“Your work is too mysterious”,
“It’s too African” (whatever that means),
“Why do you always paint women?” and many others.
However, I would say there’s great love for my work. As an artist, you cannot go about being influenced by people’s reactions and opinions about your work. Your work will suffer. I am not affected by comments because my work is me and I am the one who determines the direction of my work. That is why l will remain the artist and they, the collectors, critics, and curators. All cannot be the same or follow the same guidelines. Art is there to create a new perspective or give a new direction to thought. An artist should always resolve to be true to his heart, no matter what.
How do you manage work-life balance as an artist?
In more than three decades, my practice has been to a large extent separated from my family life. I go out away from home to indulge in creative work just like all other workers, and then I return back home to my full family time. This has not been an easy routine but it has worked for me thus far. Now that all my children are grown up, there’s more time to play as an artist.
What do you think we can do to foster a better industry for African art to thrive locally and globally?
The one thing that comes to mind immediately is to create our own real values for our creative works, instead of the current trend of looking to Europe and the West to validate what we do and put their values on us. We will never be placed on the same keel, no matter how high we rise. We need control over how our works are marketed and sold globally, and at values that we want for them. The other things, I think, are on track. We have very knowledgeable people in the art space now than we did before, who are creating opportunities for development. Time is all it will take for us to realise our true potential.
Wiz is such a phenomenal artist and I had an incredible time speaking with him. I hope this conversation with him has left you with a lot to dwell on, as it did for me.
Until next digest,