Cognizant, presented by Kensu Oteng and Janet Rady, is an online group show by Ghanaian artists James Mishio, Theophilus Tetteh, and Ben Agbee.
We are in the midst of a seismic shift in cultural exchange. The rapid development of creative material, in conjuncture with longstanding traditional practices, has contributed to a landscape of cultural production across the African continent which is growing ever more fervently. This exhibition captures the boundless potential of its peoples.
The material knowledge recorded by artists is often traded within their immediate communities and the transfer of these artistic goods occurs in bustling settlements, rather than intimate gatherings.
Thus, what may initially seem as a local and specific trade network, quickly becomes one which is global and universal. Through this socially mediated learning, new and diverse narratives are added to the already polysemous nature of a place that is full of history and identity. The outcome of this artistic collaboration is a critical selfhood, where energy meets tension, and awkwardness meets pointedness.
Cognizant, the title of this exhibition, refers to the state of being aware or conscious of one’s existence.
Contemporary art from Africa has positioned itself at the heart of the international art world due to a magnetism which originates from maturity, as opposed to mystery.
These artists emphasise the importance of cultural identity, family and artistic collaboration within their storytelling. Through their chosen medium, they each utilise an immersive energy to compress time and space, both documenting and participating in the communal exchange between people, places and identities.
This collaborative exhibition between Kensu Oteng and Janet Rady was born out of a mutual search for synchrony. At a time when the individual experience has become coalesced into a collective experience, where our troubles and triumphs are accompanied with neighbourly support, Cognizant seemed more pertinent than ever. A harmony between art that is rooted in traditional, formal considerations - line, colour, and scale - with art that has undergone a metamorphosis, both in composition and content. The meeting of these two artistic practices finds balance between the transient and the eternal, where art from the continent, that was once seen as no more than ‘material culture’, has endured to the point at which the art world has had to reconsider this narrative through increased self-introspection.
Cognizant reflects the possibilities of relationships that are not mapped by landscapes, but rather, sentiment and nature, colliding to transcend the physical.