Wiz Kudowor was perhaps the gruffest of the artists I met, but he warmed up as we kept talking. Walking into his studio was like a dream come true for an art geek like me. He has huge canvases of abstract figures, cityscapes, and adinkra symbols. His work has a textured airbrushed effect, because he uses rollers to create the shapes and layers, and a knife to sharpen the edges. He has a number of favorite subjects or “types” of paintings, one of which is a quilt made out of squares of color. Curves of blanket bend and wave, and two embracing figures emerge from under the depths.
Wiz does not say much in person. He prefers to let his art speak for itself. (“But shouldn’t I get something in return for traveling all the way to your studio?” He smiled but stayed silent.) Wiz did, however, let me look at an interview he had in a Nubuke Foundation pamphlet from his recent exhibition there. (It’s not unusual that he was at Kofi’s place — the artists are all buddies. The show Kofi was going to display cancelled last minute, and Wiz stepped in.)
In that interview, at least, Wiz had plenty of sharp words to share. “Right now,” he said, “it looks like we wait for certain westerners to come and ‘discover’ some artists in the country; then they suddenly become canonized and then the discussions start revolving around them. What are we doing ourselves? We have such a huge storehouse of talent in Ghana, but what are we doing about it? Ghanaian art is probably not making waves internationally because we’re not adventurous enough” (Bernard Akoi-Jackson, March 2010).
I couldn’t agree more.
As quiet as Wiz was, he was happy to show me his work. He let me pull out all his paintings, from the tiny ones piled against the windows to the huge ones packed in by the wall. He had me take them all the way out so I could have a full look; he lined up diptychs and triptychs properly.
As I was getting ready to leave, I took out a small square of canvas I’d admired. It was painted blue with brushed shades of purple. “I’d be interested in buying this piece from you, if you’d be willing to sell it and it weren’t too expensive,” I said.
Sitting in his chair by the window, Wiz breathed in and out. He looked at the wall, then he turned and said, “It’s yours. Let me sign it for you.”