Residency Reflections: Kwesi Awotwi

Our August Artist Residency programme is designed to provide a figurative artist the opportunity to use a large studio space, allowing them to expand their practice and dedicated time to their work. 

Applications for our August Artist Residency 2023 close 30th April 2023.

At the end of last summer, we welcomed Kwesi Awotwi to the studios as our first August Artist Residency. Kwesi studied at the Studios several years ago, where he was introduced to the atelier tradition. In the interim years, he has explored multi-media projects with the aim of holding an exhibition in the future. 

Following his residency, we interviewed Kwesi to find out more about his practice and his residency reflections.

Kwesi, what’s your artistic background? How did you come across London Fine Art Studios?

Having graduated from an undergraduate degree in Film, TV, and Radio Studies with Animation, I realised I wanted to focus more on animation, rather than solely film making. Drawing is a vital part of animation, so I began to teach myself by dropping in on life drawing classes, reading art books, and studying ‘how to draw’ tutorials. After a few years of this alongside working part time, I put a portfolio together and applied for an MA programme in Character Animation. I was actually rejected from the programme. The feedback said that I needed more time to develop my skills and advised me to enrol in an art school to gain a more substantial formal training before reapplying for the MA. 

I researched various art institutions and discovered that London Fine Art Studios would be a great place to teach me the necessary tools for the next step of my artistic journey. I began as a part time student, taking classes in their Foundation Course (which teaches the fundamentals of drawing and painting) and Gesture and Anatomy.

After training there for a couple of years, I was awarded the De Laszlo Scholarship to support my education. This allowed me to continue studying at the Studios, whilst still pursuing my interest in animation and computer graphics. 

The de Laszlo Foundation  was set up to support research and training in keeping with the legacy of Philip de László. It has generously extended its support to London Fine Art Studios, recognising the school’s contribution to art education in the UK.

Thanks to their generous support, every year a minimum of three promising artists receive a bursary to help further their studies at the Studios.

Why did you apply for the residency?

Quite a few practical reasons! I’ve been exploring using larger canvases recently, and my small studio could not accommodate my painting needs. Finding a larger studio space in London is an expensive and hard task at the best of times, and I was eager to start working towards an exhibition I hope to hold next year. The Summer Artist in Residence Programme gave me not just access to the space, but to industry experts whose guidance and motivation proved extremely beneficial. 

What are you currently working on, and where do you hope to take your art?

After a few years at London Fine Art Studios, I took a pause from atelier training and took a job working in the entertainment industry. Then the pandemic happened, so I used the time to work on my portfolio and showreel.

Midway through the pandemic, I travelled to Ghana, West Africa, on a family matter. I took my art equipment with me and decided to vlog along the way, largely through my Instagram account and working with two videographers who filmed me painting and exploring art across Accra. 

On returning to the UK, I got in touch with friends working in the film industry, eventually producing and directing my first film, ‘The Tree of Roots’, which I suppose was my way of dealing with a family bereavement. 

Working on this film project helped me clarify that I wanted my practice to be multidisciplinary. Drawing on experience from my degree, art school, and studying animation, I started my own production company, Groundhog Pictures. My hope is that through this I will be able to explore directing and collaborating with others to produce films and animated projects. 

Running alongside my filming aspirations, I used ‘The Tree of Roots’ as a blueprint for the restructuring of my artistic practice. During the residency I took inspiration from various movements in African art, the Harlem Renaissance, Expressionism, and Dynamic Cubism. I will continue to draw on these sources moving forwards, exploring my experience of being British and of Ghanian heritage, adapting the classical method I was trained in and infusing it with my artistic influences. 

What are you hoping to do next?

I’m working on new pieces to submit for exhibition open calls, and finishing the pieces painted during the residency. The body of work I produced thanks to the residency will be presented in my first solo exhibition, ‘The Tree of Roots’. This exhibition will be an extension of my film.

If you’d like to find out more about our August Artist Residency, click here

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