Art has great power. It has the power to bring communities together and to allow us to express our deepest emotions in ways words cannot. Ben Summers, a London based artist, traveled to our project in Senya-Beraku in Ghana to create a work of art with the children. This work exhibits how art can transcend culture and help us all connect to one another.
Ben began by telling us about his artistic style and how he applied that to his work in Ghana.
My name’s Ben Summers, I’m a London based painter and artist. My work is primarily about depicting communities, depicting London’s diverse culture, and using painting to tell stories about those individuals. I just try to use my practice and use the skills that I’ve obtained to reach out to people, and the arts are a fantastic way of doing that. Art can be used to communicate, break down barriers, break down walls, and work on collaborative pieces. The piece that was created in Ghana ended up being created in that way.
It was a goal to try and create a unique piece of artwork with the kids that would be about harnessing their own creativity more than anything, and also to try to get it done with a kind of formula. In a shorter space of time, there had to be some kind of structure about how we were going to make the piece.
The only idea I really had was that it would be figurative, that it would represent their home in some kind of way, and that we would collectively choose a point of inspiration from the environment. The inspiration for the piece ended up being these painted tree stumps that are dotted around the outside of the main foundation. But we just basically begun, that was it. The room was cleared and we sort of laid the canvas material on the floor. After that, it was completely just seeing what would happen and seeing how the kids would interpret using the paint. And that was really amazing to see, that sort of immediacy of just, the idea of “we’re going to take and idea and just do it”. Unfolding it in my studio in North London was bizarre, because it was totally out of context. The only place we had seen this piece of work, or I had seen it, it was spread out on the sand in front of the foundation and then in one of the rooms with all of the kids working on it.
(Image Source: http://bensummersartist.com/portfolio/artaroundthechild/ )
He also discussed the increasing global presence of African art.
There’s some incredible work coming out of Africa. African artists around the world are getting a huge amount of attention, and rightly so, because they all have these incredibly rich and powerful stories behind them, and there’s an enormous amount of creative energy. Especially in the last sort of three years, there’s been the emergence of the Contemporary African Art Fair in London, which also has an edition in New York, and I think they’re starting a third one in Morocco, I believe, next year.
The piece created by Ben Summers and the children’s art project created in Ghana was sold at the Art Around the Child auction last November. The event featured art by established and emerging artists, many of whom created works specifically for the event. Ben’s work in particular went to two British Ghanaian entrepreneurs, which was quite a fitting home.
Check out more of Ben’s work here!