Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, THE JOY OF MY SKIN, Geukens & De Vil.
At the end of January, he was suddenly world famous: the 38-year-old Ghanaian artist Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne. In his admiration for Amanda Gorman - and her hopeful delivery of "The Hill We Climb" at Joe Biden's inauguration - he had painted her portrait, which was acquired by British gallery owner and activist Amar Singh. Singh subsequently donated the work to the prestigious university where he and Gorman had studied: Harvard. Singh: 'This work must be in an institution: it is a celebration of women, a celebration of Black women, a celebration of hope.'
Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, BESTIES, 2020, Geukens & De Vil.
Mayne: “It was crazy! I went to sleep and when I woke up, the positive messages kept coming in. Since then, I have apparently become world famous. Articles about my work appear in various places in Asia and America. But you don't hear me complain, every artist dreams of success!”
Until April 25, his work can be seen in a solo exhibition in Geukens & De Vil. The Antwerp-based gallery had discovered the artist's remarkable work much earlier: in early 2020, via social media. When they found out that the artist lived in Cologne, they immediately undertook a trip for a studio visit. Mayne had moved to Germany in 2013, for matters of the heart. Yasmine Geukens: “When his portrait of Amanda Gorman went viral - and a few days later that of Vice President Kamala Harris - we were taken by surprise. Top collectors from all over the world elbowed each other. All the pieces have now been sold and we’ve created a waiting list for the future.”
THE JOY OF MY SKIN, Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, Geukens & De Vil.
Perhaps, Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne's work captures the imagination this much because he makes an effort to redefine the celebration of black identity. This is reflected in the title of the exhibition: "The Joy of My Skin". His paintings show everyday portraits of young black people against a bright background. Sometimes they represent childhood memories, other times, they refer to fictional events with an element of social criticism. For some of his works he uses fabrics, that play an important role in Ghanaian culture. In addition, it is striking that his works are not framed, because, according to Mayne, they should be free. But the most striking element in his work is that all defining features of his main characters, such as eyes, lips and noses, seem to have been painted over. The artist hopes that this will guide the viewer to search of a deeper meaning.
Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne, ELECTION YEAR, 2020, Geukens & De Vil.
Mayne: “I paint portraits without visible features such as eyes or a mouth. I don't want to talk about specific individuals, but about a generation instead. This is how I express my blackness, as a black artist in Europe, and previously in Africa. It is a colour that comes with a lot of joie de vivre and I want to celebrate that, rather than talk about the violence used against black people - black people who are considered by many to be an enemy because of their skin colour. ” Mayne defines the celebration of his black identity as a radical and effective weapon against oppression, especially at a time when the emphasis in the media often lies on violence. At the same time, his work is also linked to Black Lives Matter. He painted, for instance, a powerful portrait of George Floyd, shortly after he was murdered. With the work "Has To Stop”, he raised money for Floyd's family.
The exhibition "The Joy of My Skin" can be seen in Geuken & De Vil in Antwerp until April 25.