10 Minutes with Larry Amponsah

Larry Amponsah (b. 1989, Accra-Ghana) is a multimedia artist whose practice investigates traditional modes of image-making whilst employing unconventional strategies of production to look at the contemporary politics of imagery. He received his MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London (2018) after studying for an MFA in Chinese Traditional Painting at Jiangsu University China (2016) and gaining his BFA in Painting at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana (2015).  Larry is a former Trustee of The Kuenyehia Art Trust in Ghana, was shortlisted for the 2019 Dentons Art Prize, and won the Be Smart About Art Award in 2019. 

Amponsah, traditionally trained as a painter, creates collages made of archival images, objects, and stories from various cultures in order to negotiate systems of power and create new ways of transcending boundaries.

Amponsah transforms, prints and cuts into archival images, which he assembles in collages that are further worked upon using mechanical processes and his honed skills as a trained painter. In this succession of strategic moves about image-making techniques, dynamic compositions emerge, as well as compelling narratives or portraits that reference his own West African upbringing within a greater global narrative.

As the UK is going into a second lockdown Open Space continues to highlight artistic practices through our ” 10 Minute Interviews”. This week’s guest is Larry Amponsah.

How has your practice evolved based on where you come from and where you are living now? Does cultural appropriation play an important role in your work?

My practice has seriously evolved over this short period of time that I have been out of my country (Ghana). This is because of the kind of people I engage with now, the tools and services I now have access to, the quality of materials I work with, common phenomenon occurrences and most importantly the current global politics people like myself (black people) are subjected to. What I do is far from cultural appropriation – I create cultural types that are genuine and relatable to all. I only take things that resonate with me, I sample cultures that directly relate to my journey as an individual or my artistic practice (these could be books I read, places I spent time travelling, living and learning, people I have experienced or created meaningful relationships with and my personal understanding of what there is in general). So, I don’t really appropriate, I basically allow myself to adopt, learn, build upon and grow. Afterall, we currently live in a global world where everything we experience or understand somehow comes from elsewhere… there is no clear-cut on contemporary cultures. Culture is meant to be fluid and therefore borrows from others.

Supremacy Is Not A Man… (2020),
Paper, Acrylic Paint and Archival Paper mounted on Canvas,
230 X 150cm,
Courtesy of Larry Amponsah.

Traditionally trained as a painter, you also work with collages made of archival images, objects, and stories from various cultures. What is your prefered medium?

I don’t have a preferred medium that I expect to be working with for the rest of my life, my preferred medium is whatever best translates my ideas and gets the message communicated loud and clear at a particular moment in time. Yes, you find me using paint, sound, video, objects and archival materials but they are all pieced together by collage using the unconventional language of painting. Like myself, my practice is unpredictable, and that’s what makes it interesting.

What do you love to do in your free time?

I love to watch films, relax and listen to good music in my studio, read a book and most importantly, spend some time with my family.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Financial freedom and long life… without them one can achieve but a little.

What influenced your practice?

People’s lived experiences, uncommon practices and black cultures.

Tulips, Gun and the Peace Keeper (2020),
Paper, Acrylic Paint and Archival Paper mounted on Canvas,
150 X 110cm,
Courtesy of Larry Amponsah.

What does diversity mean to you?

For me, diversity is a place that is welcoming and encourages all to do better. Diversity means equally rewarding for all, holds its “no tolerance for hate” policy high and demands accountability from all who undermine any of the qualities mentioned regardless of their age, gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or deceased, who would it be?

This is a difficult question as I have so many on my list… but if I must choose one or two, I would say Kerry James Marshall and Kanye West.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m trying to finish this ambitious new body of work I started at the early stages of the pandemic. This project involves producing over 50 new paintings that are made from miniature collages I made.