Adelaide Damoah is a British artist of Ghanaian descent whose earlier work combined African and Western influences while highlighting social issues. A founding member of the BBFA (Black British Female Artists Collective), Our friends at Liquitex caught up with Adelaide to find out more about her practice, inspiration behind her work and go to materials.
Artist Spotlight: Adelaide Damoah
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT ADELAIDE DAMOAH
Can you please tell us your name and where you are from?
Adelaide Damoah. I was born and raised in London UK.
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
I am a multidisciplinary artist and I use investigative practices including painting, performance, collage and photographic processes to examine various social issues including colonialism, feminism, spirituality and latterly joy.
What was the first piece of work that really impacted you and made you consider becoming an artist? Who was the artist?
That was Diego On My Mind, a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo! I was introduced to her work when I was around age 14 in art class. I vividly remember an entire project based on her work. I made a copy of this painting as a drawing. I still have it somewhere… I then made my own self-portrait inspired by it. I was so struck by her ability to convey emotion in her uniquely surreal way that for a long time I tried to make work like her. From that moment on, I knew I was an artist and despite going on to study first accountancy and then science at university, I continued to draw and paint in this style and continued to do so even once I entered the corporate world.
Could you tell us where you get your inspiration for your work from?
At the moment, I don’t feel I have to search for inspiration as it is all around me. I am working on a lifetime project called Confronting Colonisation all the time and the source material I have for this is endless. I am constantly inspired by the books I read and by my artist friends and colleagues, as well as curators and gallerists I work with. I am constantly inspired and motivated by my mentors who work across a range of disciplines including law, photography and film. Finally, I am constantly inspired by my mentee whose drive and ambition fills me with pride and joy!
Do you have a particular plan/routine when you start painting? OR Would you say that you have a routine in your creative process, or is it more organic?
I don’t have a set routine but ultimately, what I do depends on the particular project or piece that I am working on. My processes both inside the studio and in performance are organic and intuitive, but they have at their core a lot of reading, researching, thinking and soul searching. All of my accumulated experience, knowledge and passion directs the work in a way that is difficult to explain and easier to demonstrate. When working on body print works, there is body memory and instinct which dictates how I position myself. When I am using photographic processes like cyanotype or image transfer techniques, there is a certain amount of thinking and planning, but mostly the work is experimental and intuitive. I enjoy the beauty of imperfection and of what others may deem to be mistakes.
by Pedro Lima
What is a typical studio day for you? Do you listen to music? Are your materials chaotic or are you super organised?
There is no such thing as a typical studio day! What I do in the studio on a particular day depends on what I am working on. If I am working on cyanotypes and image transfer, the studio is much cleaner. If I am painting or using pigment, the stuff gets everywhere because those works tend to be large. There are experimental works everywhere. On the walls, on the chairs and on the table. My studio is chaotic and messy. When I work with pigment, it gets all over the place! I tend to warn people to wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty on studio visits because, during those times, it is inevitable that you will get pigment of some kind on you. I have a shelving system so you could say it is more organised chaos as I know where everything is.
What I listen to depends on my mood. Sometimes I listen to art podcasts all day and other times I listen to audiobooks. This tends to be when I am working on photographic process and collage/image transfer type works for some reason. When I am painting, I am more likely to listen to music. This can vary drastically depending on my mood and on the colours I am using. Loud colours tend to get me in the mood for 90’s hip hop and R&B, deep house or afrobeats. More muted colours and moods get me in the mood for classical piano music. Regardless of mood, I am currently obsessed with a classical pianist called Joep Beving. I currently have his latest work on repeat. Another playlist I am obsessed with at the moment is Max Richter. I can listen to him all day. On the flip side, I am in love with FKA Twigs and Moses. I have them both on the same Apple playlist for some reason. They just work together for me and I love them.
What do you still find exciting about painting as a medium?
I work in an unusual way when I work with paint in that I put my whole body into it. This is exciting for me as it allows me to truly embody and maximise my expression in a way that I was not able to access when I painted in a more traditional way. This flexibility and expansiveness is exciting and interesting to me. It is thrilling to imagine just how far I can take this.
How do you find working with Liquitex materials?
At the moment, I am using a lot of Liquitex professional acrylic inks and setting sprays for my pigments. The colours of the inks are intense and satisfying. They are water-resistant which is great because when working with paper, I tend to use the inks to dye the paper multiple times and then soak the paper in water (once dried) before dying again. The same applies to canvas. I will throw ink at the canvas, let it dry (it dries very quickly) and then go over it again with a different colour. Sometimes I’ll add pigment, spray the pigment with Liquitex setting varnish and then go over again with more ink. I use the satin spray varnish and it works very well for these processes, even when I have to layer multiple times. Some of the inks also work very well with staining paper to use for cyanotypes, which is fantastic- as not all inks work with this process. I am completely in love with the iridescent inks! They have this subtle quality which is just beautiful on small intimate works.
Artworks Pictured: Maameni's Dream, Cyanotpe, Pigment Ink.
How does the environment around you impact your work - do the things you encounter in your day to day feed into your paintings? How so?
In my flat, I am surrounded by endless books. They feed my practice by feeding my brain! I’m generally always reading at least one book and on a day to day, I’ll pick up a book of poems and read something which can spark ideas. Sometimes it goes somewhere, other times not. Sometimes I’ll just journal about those thoughts and ideas. Then there is the environment outside. I am surrounded by gorgeous green spaces and my flat and studio are right on top of a lovely lake with swans and ducks. I can see them from my living room window and sometimes go out to feed them. Seeing them and hearing them is comforting and calming.
Lately, I have been using dried grasses from my local area in my cyanotypes while contemplating the intersection between environmentalism and colonialism- inspired by conversations with my friend Dr Jasmine Pradessito- an amazing artist whose main passion is environmentalism which she explores very beautifully and subtly in her work. The environment in which I live, the natural environment outside and the people around me all impact me in meaningful ways and this inevitably comes out in the work.
What do you find most challenging about being an artist?
I sometimes worry that I won’t have the time in my life to make all of the work I want to make and that I won’t be able to fulfil my full potential. There is so much work to do and despite everything slowing down, it feels like there is so little time. This is a constant source of frustration and occasional angst, but mostly, I just get on with living it and enjoying it.
And finally is there any advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?
Be true to yourself and follow your bliss. If this is what you really want to do, persist, practice, learn and work. Don’t give up. Respectfully ask someone you know who you admire and respect to mentor you. The value of mentors can not be overstated in any profession.