Artist of the Month September 2022
Working with bright, flat areas of colour, I paint figures in quiet, ordinary places. I aim to establish a meaningful connection with my Ghanaian family and local traditions. I want to create ‘a common ground’ for black people in which they can feel seen and explore interpersonal connections.
Karwea Sharratt is an emerging painter based in London. Their works often depict figures in ordinary places: at a swimming pool or in front of their home. Karwea paints these calm scenes of public life, with their Ghanian family and local traditions in mind. In a broader sense, their work seeks to create ‘a common ground’ for black people in which they can feel seen and connected.
Inspired by the photographer James Barner, Karwea works to depict African subjects, fashion and culture free from the white gaze: “I love clothes and art, but the history books I read always assume Europe to be the centre of culture. They didn’t contain anyone who looked like me. This is a ridiculous thing – there were sixties’ babes and punk-rockers in Ghana too, of course!”
For Karwea, the focus is on “really looking at Africa through my own gaze” and embracing their own experience of cultural hybridity. They work with bright, flat areas of colour to create intriguing, enigmatic compositions. Primary colours (red, blue, yellow) are particularly important, as well as subtle variations in paint texture. “I love [the Brazilian painter] Antonia Oba’s use of colour,” explains Karwea, “I think he inspired me to juxtapose figures with large areas of vibrant paint.”
Karwea has always been making art inspired by people since they can remember: “as a kid I made little family portraits; it’s always been a part of my life.” Having recently graduated from Kingston University with a BA in Fine Art, Karwea hopes to spend time in Ghana documenting nightlife and transforming their photographs into oil-paintings. “I get inspired by people, take a photograph, it festers in my brain for a little bit, then I paint it,” they explain, “it’s as simple as that!”
Karwea is currently working towards a solo show: “I want to focus on building up a single body of work and I want to work bigger, because it can be frustrating to not realise large-scale ideas in my art.” They are also considering developing a performance-based side to their practice that would complement their paintings and help the artwork come to life.