Interview by Visual Collaborative
July 2019 7 min read
Adelaide Damoah is a British painter and performance artist. She uses body printing techniques as the starting point for both her studio work and public performances. Damoah’s debut exhibition entitled “Black Brits” in 2006 received nationwide coverage on outlets such as BBC News and Channel 5 News. As a feature in our Visual Collaborative “Vivencias” interview series, Adelaide discusses the evolution and impact of her work.
(VC) Your work and its expressions has seen visibility across several mediums. Do you have time periods for how you showcase your art or would you say its all organic and relative to the tool required at the moment of your creations?
(Adelaide) I would say the latter. I have built up a substantial inventory of work in the studio. Some works have been made for specific shows whilst others have been made organically in the moment. On the performance side I have developed some performances intuitively whilst others have been developed in response to a particular call or theme after being invited to participate in a show or event. There are no specific time intervals or periods for how I showcase work online or offline.
This is Me the Inconsistency of the Self performance piece- Adelaide Damoah
(VC) Being diagnosed with Endometriosis comes with its own challenges, what was the most important part about your learning or re-learning process as you started to pick up art and function in the society again?
(Adelaide) Endometriosis is a chronic condition which affects the lives of 1 in 10 women worldwide. It is something I have to deal with on a daily basis as I have pain most of the time because I also have adenomyosis. The difference on a day to day is how much pain. The most important thing I have learned in order to function and to keep functioning in society is to listen to my body, work with it, not against it and to stay positive. These three things manifest themselves in a multitude of ways and include making sure that I rest when I need to rest, keeping my weight down with sensible and sustainable lifestyle, and keeping my mind healthy with my meditation practice and journaling. I am constantly searching for new ways to improve my health so that I can stay as healthy as possible. Health is first for me. Everything else follows.
The issues that were important to me when I was working in a more traditional way are still very present in my current work. I think now I have found a way of expression which has more of a visceral impact.
(VC) Your earlier work as a figurative artist utilized paint forms to project bodily expression. Today you have evolved to using your own body as a medium to convey stories or champion the causes you support. Is there any major difference between the two disciplines or its all part of your ever growing artist statement?
(Adelaide) I am utilizing a different visual language to convey many of the same things. The issues that were important to me when I was working in a more traditional way are still very present in my current work. I think now I have found a way of expression which has more of a visceral impact. Yes, you could say that this evolution is a part of an ever growing artist statement and I am constantly experimenting. I am currently working towards making sculpture and also have collage works.
(VC) You are a founding member of BBFA (Black British Female Artist) What was the catalyst for this organization / movement?
(Adelaide) The Collective was the brainchild of Enam Gbewonyo. There had been an increase in interest in African art up until the point when we formed in 2015 and the market was obviously growing. 1:54 Art Fair, Bonhams African division and various other African art initiatives were evidence of that. As black British women specifically, we felt left out of that conversation. We felt marginalized by British institutions and galleries and marginalized by the African art scene. Looking at the history of art collectives and groups from the 80’s, we knew that there was strength in numbers, so we decided to get together and present ourselves to the art world as a group rather than knocking on doors as individuals. We have found that doors have opened much more easily than when we were working as individuals and as a consequence have worked with a number or institutions nationally and internationally, which has helped our careers individually as well as as a collective.
A Litany for Survival. Oil on canvas- Adelaide Damoah
(VC) Congratulations on your solo public exhibitions and continuous public representation. Looking at the ongoing talks of Brexit, as an artist are you more concerned or more optimistic given the trajectory of the present times?
(Adelaide) Thank you! I am naturally an optimistic person, however, even I recognize that we are living in challenging volatile times. My philosophy is that times of volatility can be seen as an opportunity to make a change for the better. I am keeping my eyes open to see where I can turn some of these challenges into opportunities. We will see what happens. One of my main concerns is the ease of travel throughout Europe. No one knows what will happen, so we will just have to wait and see and act when challenges present themselves as opportunities.
(VC) Your work combines African and western influences, both at some point in history were patriarchal societies. Does that male dominance still reflect reality in your art form?
(Adelaide) We still live in a patriarchal society. The continent of Africa probably more so than in Europe. Yes, male dominance is something I grapple with every day in life as well as in my work. All women do. That is reality right now.
(VC) Some mention the renaissance as an art period they admire. If you can time warp back to any era what time would it be and why?
(Adelaide) I would go back to the time when Frida Kahlo lived just to meet her and bask in her brilliance. She is my favorite artist and it is because of her work that I fell in love with painting.
(VC) As a woman of color in London who is exposed to varied audiences and business situations, what do you tell the aspiring young woman artist or entrepreneur about success and risk?
(Adelaide) Stay focused and keep it moving. Learn as much as possible. Look after your mental health and protect yourself. Microaggressions will wear you down if you let them. Don’t.
Fernande. Pigment and ink on hand made cotton rag paper. 37 x 53 inches – Adelaide Damoah
I go into hibernation mode and think about consciousness and the universe and what it means to be alive in this world. What things connect us as humans. All of these things inspire me
(VC) In your quiet or noisy moments how do you get inspired. What makes Adelaide create the work she does. Do you seek religion or fully embrace spirituality like others in the creative industry for inspiration?
(Adelaide) I am constantly seeking new knowledge about the world. Spiritual knowledge, scientific knowledge. I read a lot. I watch documentaries on Gaia. I meditate a lot. I go inside my own head. I go into hibernation mode and think about consciousness and the universe and what it means to be alive in this world. What things connect us as humans. All of these things inspire me and when I do this I refresh and come back to the studio a new person to create.
(VC) What can the United Kingdom and the world expect from Adelaide Damoah within the next 36 months?
(Adelaide) MTArt Agency- the agency who represent me, will be facilitating more international performances, collaborations, and sculpture or two. Watch this space.