Presented at the Institute for Contemporary Art — Virginia Commonwealth University — Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes is Appah’s first institutional solo exhibition that coalesces diverse mediums to register and reflect on cultural memory. Figures of men, women, animals, as well as landscapes, become a powerful metaphor for remembering and forgetting.
Gideon Appah, The Young Minatour,
2021; Photography Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, Roxy 2, 2020-2021; Photography by Adam Reich
At once a celebration and a lament for what is lost, Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes narrates Black cultural production and experimental African film practices.
Inherent to film is the quality of simultaneously representing time and fragmenting it only to montage it back together through piecing separate sections into a continuous whole. Similarly, Appah’s recent exhibition has this effect — multiple scenes play themselves out across different times and sites; a group of youngsters in white underwear and white socks playfully return the gaze — Remember Our Stars — a man is captured naked — Nude Boy — a woman drowns herself or perhaps only her sorrows — A Woman Drowned in Water — a man holds a cigarette while laying on a car’s bonnet — Hyped Teen. And ofcourse, the oh so glamorous figures in white suits — Bliss I, Two Men Having a Smoke, Bliss II and Roxy 2.
Gideon Appah, Bliss I, 2021; Photography by Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, TBD, 2021; Photography by Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, Cecilia (Triptych), 2020-2021; Photography by Adam Reich
There is a hazy relationship between smoking and glamour. For Appah, this is reflected through the press release; “Many figures are painted smoking, both as an homage to nightlife culture and, perhaps, as an omen of eventual decay.” Writer and researcher Virginia Mayer alludes to this relationship in other forms, that, “Cigarette smoking also exude[s] glamour and sophistication, particularly in the smoldering lips of exotic stars like Valentino, Ty Power and Dietrich….” continuing, “But hard-edged or shiny sleek, the smoke signals always translated as sex.” Glamour, Sex, Death and Decay are all enmeshed to speak of a sense of loss and tragedy.
Representing a microcosm of Ghanaian history through the filmic, the artist used newspaper clippings, entertainment posters and films spanning the 1950s through the 1980s as source materials to explore the rise and fall of Ghana’s cinema and leisure culture. Just as cinema lends itself as aesthetic and experiential consideration (Neilson: 2020), Appah’s work is experiential and speculative.
Gideon Appah, Hyped Teen, 2020; Photography by Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, A Woman Drowned
in Water, 2021.; Photography by Adam Reich
By considering the legacy of Ghanaian cinema, he manages to capture the disorienting multiplicity of the past and the present. Time folds unto itself while simultaneously extending outward to reach towards the present.
Through a reorganisation of history that incorporates real and imagined events, Appah signals the montage as a method to think about the world. There is no logical sequence and no clear narrative arc and yet through various gestures — both big and small — the work paints a picture that connects us to history.
Gideon Appah, Remember Our
Stars, 2020; Photography by Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, Two Men Having a Smoke, 2020-
2021; Photography by Adam Reich