Owusu-Ankomah’s work is informed by a sophisticated discourse on traditional philosophical concepts as well as a deep understanding of the aesthetic and cultural character of the African continent. He draws inspiration from the visual power of symbols including the ancient Adinkra sign system of his homeland, abstract symbols, logos and ideograms from contemporary global cultures combined with an awareness of a vast array of both formal and inherited traditions.to create work that is dense with visual complexity.
A master of harmony and dissonance in composition, his highly characteristic and clearly recognizable work seeks to balance spatial and structural concerns. He exploits the themes of memory, history and the passage of time through the filter of personal experience to create work that is never merely decorative, yet embodies a philosophy of communication which obliges us to reflect anew upon common elements of our humanity. His work evinces an ability to reconcile intelligence and sensibility, knowledge and intuition as well as matter and spirit.
Integral to the body of work in Owusu-Ankomah’s new series is the symbol of the Microcron, a word coined by the artist is the circle of circles, the confluence and reincarnation of all signs and symbols. It stands for an all-embracing order system of being and thoughts; it stands for the unit of man, nature and cosmos. It is the ultimate symbol, the symbol of symbols. He explores notions of spiritualism and spirituality, the nature of consciousness, metaphysics, quantum physics, scientific cosmology and their philosophical implications to create strong works that reflects a continuum between the inherited past and a self-determined future. He possesses an inimitable ability to unite a limited palette of black and white with hints of color, light and surface while pushing the bounds of his aesthetic to create works of remarkable elegance and lyrical beauty. The muscular male figures in his work are naked, radiant and self-confident, set within a universe of symbols with partial outlines of their bodies refracting light as they weave in and out of a hidden world that reflects the balance of mind, body and spirit within the vessel of the human body. The new works reveal an acute awareness of the diversity, contradictions and complexity of modern society as he explores the tension between contained pictorial energy and boundless space.
Owusu-Ankomah that accompanies the multi-continent exhibition Microcron Begins of the work of the artist Owusu-Ankomah, is a great book.
It is great in the context of art history across continents and in relation to all fields of knowledge.
This greatness consists in the deft correlation of a great body of art by an artist and a profound and imaginatively rich philosophy, a combination that is rare in publications in the history of the visual arts.
Perhaps the preeminent combination of visual artist, thinker and writer in the Western tradition is Vincent van Gogh, but the scope represented by the peaks reached by his achievement in these areas of endeavor seems to be rare in Western art.
William Blake is magnificent in his poetry and art but I wonder if he reached summits of consistency of peaks of achievement in these fields as Van Gogh did in both, keeping in mind that my acquaintance with Blake is very limited, while I am familiar with Van Gogh’s writing and art.
Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks are striking but I wonder if the notebooks and his art achieve a related level of coherence of achievement, a coherence that would truly be a wonder because he is one of the greatest artists of all time, keeping in mind I have only a very basic acquaintance with his notebooks.
A discussion of relationships between art and thought by the same artist must include Asia because Asian cultures seem to have developed a more sensitive approach to the relationship between these areas of creativity for centuries and documented their ideas well before other civilizations reached that level of cognitive sophistication and documentation, but my exposure to relationships between philosophy and art by Asian artists is more limited than it is with that of the West.
The development of subtle and elaborate conceptions of creativity, epistemology and metaphysics in Asian art is well known and a study of this field must include the specific ways particular artists have developed such ideas in relation to their art in the course of their careers across the diverse cultural worlds represented by Japan, India, China, to name three countries with very rich traditions of correlation between art and thought known to me among the wealth represented by Asian cultures in general.
Classical African art is very rich in correlations between art and philosophy, as is evident from publications in this field.
Post-classical African art is also very rich in these correlations, and the exploration of the convergence between art and philosophy in the work of these artists is steadily growing.
Owusu-Ankomah’s work belongs in this strand.
The art of other continents, Australia, South America, Native-American art which I am not sure whether or not to class as Western since it comes from North America although I wonder if it belongs to the same cultural stream as Western art, art of the Caribbean and African-American art which I am classifying as part of Western art and Diaspora African art, which I am confused about, suggesting the limitations and perhaps archaic and outmoded value of categorizing art primarily by continent or by single or monolithic cultural streams, all demonstrate their own correlations between art and philosophy, as represented by the thought and practice of the artists as well as the views of non-artists on art.
Within the scope represented by the global history of art as I am exposed to it so far, the book Microcron Begins on Owusu-Ankomah’s art is a landmark work on account of the scope of elements that constitute the book.
It integrates an individual spiritual and philosophical voyage in terms of of painting, complemented by philosophy, presented in terms of the elaborate, imaginatively rich and conceptually profound verbal expositions by the artist, a rich body of examples of the artist’s work, most of it in colour and a magnificent body of essays by various writers engaging the artist’s work and thought.
The artist’s vision is also remarkable in integrating both the classical world views represented by ancient spiritual cosmologies, as represented by ideas and practices from his native Ghana and contemporary advances in scientific cosmology and its philosophical implications.
The visual artist I know who stands on her own inachievement in depiction of philosophical and spiritual quest in relation to her art is Susanne Wenger. Idon’t think the art of her school, since she directed a team of co-workers, is at the same level of realization as Owusu-Ankomah’s paintings, although the architectural achievement of the school is particularly remarkable.
Artists engaging with broad and deep philosophical, particularly metaphysical issues in art from the 20th century to the present such as the German artist Anselm Kiefer and the Indian artist Sohan Qadri are wellknown but I think to find an achievement of spiritual and philosophical quest,depicting the individual on a journey in quest of ultimate meaning, that is correlative that of Owusu-Ankomah we might have to go to literature, from earliest times tothe present.
The preeminent master of literature of spiritual and philosophical quest in Western literature might be the Italian Dante Alighieri.
Another great figure along similar lines, the scope of whose achievement is only beginning to come to light, is Aleister Crowley, known for his work in modern Western magic, but who is actually a multidisciplinary cultural icon.
Ibn Arabi is particularly remarkable in Islamic thought and literature for his ideational scope, imaginative range and verbal magic, to give an example from my very limited exposure to Arab and Persian literature.
I am not informed of examples of personal accounts of spiritual quest in Jewish literature, although the stories and philosophy of Nahman of Bratslav, which I am conversant with, are interpreted along such lines.
I am acquainted with the wonderful work of Jorge Louis Borges from South America but he does not present his work in terms of a personal journey even though it certainly is.
From my reading of Asian literature of spiritual and philosophical quest, I understand Jetsun Milarepa as remarkable for the emotional depth, conceptual density, imagistic range and musical fluidity of his poetry.
The accounts of personal spiritual and philosophical journey known to me in African literature are represented by Amadou Hampate Ba’s presentation of the Fulani cosmological epic Kaidara, Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinths, Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, complemented by his A Shuttle in the Crypt and The Credo of Being and Nothingness and Bessie Head’s A Question of Power.
I see a study of Owusu-Ankomah’s body of work vital in relation to these contexts and including the example of van Gogh because of the explicit framing of Owusu-Ankomah’s work in terms of a personal spiritual and philosophical quest, akin to the roles of in the central characters in these literary and autobiographical works.
Of course, all creative work, particularly in thearts, embodies the preoccupations and possibly the cognitive journey of the creator, but it is relevant to bracket the field of comparison to explicit foregrounding of personal individuality in order to make the scope of comparison manageable in this context.
Across these figures in the visual and verbal arts, central qualities of their creativity are imaginative range and dexterity, evocative power and conceptual force.
From my exposure so far, I understand Dante as preeminent in his multidisciplinary correlation, welding magnificent poetic music and imagery to explorations in metaphysics, religion, literature, art, political and social philosophy and the scientific cosmology of his time in medieval Europe.
Owusu-Ankomah is a painter and Dante is a writer. Ankomah’s writing is complementary to his painting, much more so than that of van Gogh whose letters represent a body of work that can stand on their own in terms of volume, ideational scope and beauty and power of expression.
Owusu Ankomah, however, suggests a comparable range of reference to that of van Gogh’s much more voluminous writing and a more sophisticated and complex philosophy, particularly since van Gogh’s writing is deeply engaged with his personal struggles in working out his vision within the vicissitudes of his life, that personal texture being vital to the human richness of his work, while Ankomah’s writing is completely philosophical and extra-personal.
In terms of evocative range however, I would see Ankomah’s visual art as comparable in scope to Dante’s greater variety of imaginative evocations.
The complete range of achievement and possibilities of development represented by by Owusu-Ankomah’s work, however, might be unique in the history of both visual and verbal art across cultures.
This uniqueness consists of his development of a completevisual sequence and complementary verbal expression that may be adapted to an actual spiritual and philosophical practice involving physical motion, artistic contemplation and intellectual reflection.
His work may be divided into three major categories of philosophical and spiritual exploration, each of them requiring significant depth of study in terms of their internal referentiality and associations with other bodies of knowledge.
The first category may be seen as his art of contemplative orientation, in which attitudes suggesting commencement of philosophical and spiritual quest are presented in terms of physical postures and colour values represented by lone figures and the evocative power of the colours and symbols that shape the spaces they inhabit.
The second classification may be understood as his major body of work, in terms of number and evocative range, of the actual process of cognitive exploration, consisting of human forms in various positions against a background of Ghanaian Adinkra and other symbols and his own self developed symbol, the Microcron.
The third set may be seen as his art of somatic orientation in which the focus is on the positioning of the human body in relation to points in space with a minimality of other forms within that space, spaces evocative of the coordinates within which embodied being is realized.
I see in this sequence of paintings a discipline that incorporates physical exercise, visual contemplation of art and reflective exploration of philosophical and spiritual questions raised by the artist.
This discipline is enriched by its associations with correlative disciplines such as Yoga in Yoga’s conjunction of physical exercise, contemplation and philosophical reflection.
The discipline represented by Owusu-Ankomah’s work is also better appreciated in relation to the full range of philosophical and spiritual exploration across the world, including the philosophical implications of scientific cosmology, which the artist explicitly references.
The book Microcron Begins, in its large scope of verbal exploration and presentation of the artist’s ideas and work, within a thick hardbound volume enriched by numerous colour photographs depicting the sequence of his major body of work, and powerful essays by the artist and scholars of his work, provides a most rich introduction to a massive body of work that would take several volumes to present and explicate its significance.
The book presents the magnificent range of the artist’s paintings and ideas, pointing a finger towards further exploration that can help actualize a fuller understanding of the unique scope of his achievement as both an evocation of a personal quest with profound ramifications for humanity in the search for ultimate meaning, but as also representing a discipline that others may adapt for their own use in this quest as embodied beings, an embodiment in the midst of metaphysical coordinates that is the core of Owusu-Ankomah’s response to the challenge of the question of ultimate meaning.
By Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju
The Darwinian evolutionary theory tells us that humans like all other life on earth, evolved from an ancestral species, and that we evolved from apes, and are the highest evolutionary form of the ape family.
Charles Darwin does not claim to have observed evolution, he maintains that evolution can be inferred from what he did, or infact supposedly found. In other words sceince does not claim to discover the final truth of our beginnings, but only advances a hypothesis based on the available evidence.
A compelling evidence however is now available that strongly supports a new hypothesis: A giant leap forward in human evolution is being taken. The evolution of the mind has begun, along with the development of psychic sense, and the awakening of the latent power of the soul.
But the question is, who are we? Are we from a subtler essence? Where do we come from? What are we doing here? Where are we going? The answer to these fundamental questions is the quest of my paintings. This quest has brought to me the realization that our grudgy daily lives have a higher meaning and purpose in all it's smplicity.
This simplicity is to be obseved in my paintings, the simple white figures with black writings or symbols on them accentuated sometimes by repitition in the background, which deals with our relationship to eachother and nature in a prosaic philosophy. My paintings encourages the observer to be graceful, fair and loving to hers or his fellow humans, because our true beginnings is not in the flesh, but that we were originally and are, mighty spiritual beings having a human experience, and that it is unconditional love that manifested us.
This knowledge is to help us in our evolutionary process, so that all the simple positive traits such us equity, kindliness, honesty, sharing, forgiveness, helps shape a positive human and spritual future evolution.
We have a great future. Our evolution is assured because all that we need for this quantum leap to occur lies dormant within us, waiting to be activated. All the information needed lies in the 95 percent part of our unused brain and dormant mental faculties, our junk, socalled DNA and the latent power of our souls and spirit. It is all waiting to be quickened by the ultimate Spirit, the sourcefield of consciousness. As we continue our evolution along the path that we decide upon as a community, we will be able to eliminate war, crime, all the diseases that afflict humankind, and someday reunite ourselves with our Creator. This is our destiny. The code of the human genetical genome and the code of the universe is being decoded more and more every day, it already predicts our reunion with the source of all energy as we also are energy.
Culture is capable of effecting an evolutionary change within a single generation, and i believe this is the generation of a renewal of our sociocultural modes of thinking, attitudes and consciousness.
Human evolution began with the interaction of the environement and then the social, the development of cities and cultures and culture, which is human expression. The evolution of populations up to the evolution of the individual who comes out of the mutually supportive grouping, independent from the external.
Interesting isn't it? That evolution now becomes an individually centered process who's inner development processes is no longer at the whim of the collective. (Do we not stand alone before the Source Light after we transmute from this life into the next, and then stand again before the I Am before we reincarnate back into this life?). Evolution, now of the individual will no longer be restricted by time and space. This is the manifestations of the Neo Human. The old manfestatiions of the old evolutionary paradigm with its aggresivenesss, acquisitiveness, selfishness, wars, morals, destructiveness, paracitism, competition, hunger and poverty will be subjected to the new evolutionary paradigm with the new traits of truth, loyalty, justice, selflessness, tenderness, helpfulness freedom and abundance.
Now, my paintings are about hope. My works also make it clear to the observer, that it is the simple tools of empathy that will help usher us through the coming transition. It is about the coming of new and wonderous possibilities. It is about the truth of our evolutionary future, of which truth i am trying to bear witness.
We must put a stop to plundering the earth and nature's treasures in abject wastefulness and pollution. Let's cast away fear and know that there is enough there for us all.
There is abundance all around us if only we can open our eyes and our hearts. Scarcity as we know it is a lie.
If society as a whole will understand that we must come together to save Earths environment for the sake of our development and evolution, for example, abstain from fossil fuels and develop shelved off energy systems and technologies that will have no pollution whatsover on the Earth's environs. Like Zero Point Energy limitless free energy out of the vacuum of space. The quantum flux.
These almost never heard of technologies will enable us to have interstellar travel, we will have teleportation. We will heal our desserts and turn them into blooming fields and pastures green. These will become common place occurences of healing which will enable us to increase our ethical and spiritual qualities. These technologies are real and must be made known to the public. And when this happens there is obviously going to be a spiritual awakening. People will realise the connection between energy and consciousness. So let's save nature, let's save Mother Earth.
You may think my ideas are farfetched? Do you have alternative solutions to our selfmade global problems? You hold on to the status quo, or worst still adhere to the old paradigm and you listen to the prophets of doom? Behold then, there is the sea, go to the shore, lay you down, fold your arms, and prepare to die in your hopelessness as the tide covers you up claiming you for a new biological evolutional beginning, after the destruction that is to come, which is your reality, your unconscious intent.
As for me, i see a new heaven and a new earth, full of peace and abundance and above all, Love.
The total universal force, the energy force that eminates from the centre of our universe, from the core of the sourcefield of each galaxy, that which we call the Creator is calling unto us, for we are particles of this force.
Jesus the Christ's birth, life, death, crucifixion and resurrection was perhaps an unprecedented cosmic event? He apparently, after the resurrection might have taken on, in a form of symbioses, the consciousness of the milkyway galaxy which programmes human life on all the planetery systems throughout the whole galaxy and therewith creating a new evolutionary programme for all human life? We become in our new state of expanded wakefulness and knowing, tthat which is called the state of Krishna Consciousness, Buddha Nature or Christ Consciousness?
The Creator appears to have set up a template for human life to evolve on all the planets in the galaxy. The question is, does this apply to all galaxies in our universe? Is life a defacto standard in the cosmos?
Let's come back to the crux of the matter. I no longer see my art as an aesthetical presentation of mere beauty, no, but as a catalyst for change. The artist becomes a social critic, a future analyst, a priest, a philosopher, a prophet, a mystic, a healer and a teacher. One who teaches you not, to fear God, but to love God.
My paintings are an indicator, roadsigns on our journey towards our oncoming evolution. Soon our dormant and latent abilities will be awakened and this can only happen if we collectively and indvidually are compassionate and loving to each other. This is the new commandment.
We are in an imploding cyclic movement toward a spontaneous evolution "The rapture" as the Christians call it, time is becoming shorter and shorter,we are experiencing a telescoping in of evolutionary time, we experience one novelty after the other until we reach a crescendo, as we near this one of the greatest of epic moments in our history. Actually this event is more fantastic than i would like here to admit. But that is another story.
Pray, meditate, let heaven be within you.
Love one another.
Owusu-Ankomah 28 September 2009
Extracted out of the texts of the First Book of the Microcron.