Artist Spotlight: Wisdom ‘Wiz’ Kudowor
This summary is brought to you by Patrons MCAA. Patrons is a comprehensive art consultancy and franchise that helps private and corporate art collectors diversify their wealth management through art collection, appraisal, packaging and transportation, storage , insurance, maintenance and restoration.
In an exclusive interview, Art Index Africa broke bread with Wiz Kudowor, one of Ghana’s greatest masters. Wiz shares a lifetime of lessons and the essence of his art. I had a great time hosting it, and I think you’ll find some of the snippets of our chat written below quite intriguing.
About the artist
Wiz is one of Ghana’s most famous entertainers. He is internationally collected, a master and highly decorated. Wiz has been commissioned to design and execute several public works in Ghana including the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park Relief Mural; a distinguished monument to some of his nation’s most important leaders. He takes pride in representing African culture through his use of symbols, identity, visual language and mythology.
Now that we know a little more about our artist in the spotlight, let’s dive into the details of this exclusive conversation with Wiz.
As an artist, how would you define success?
I define success by the longevity and sustained practice of an artist, which culminates in enduring visibility in the art space. This will inform the respect an artist commands among his peers.
It’s an interesting view of success. Can you remember the exact moment when you felt successful in your career? If you remember.
I guess I always had the feeling of having succeeded since I have always been recognized and appreciated by the industry and for a very long time, by my friends and my contemporaries. My practice was never built on the money I made from my craft. Money has never been a criterion by which I measure my success.
If my definition of success isn’t success, then I guess I’m still waiting for my “aha” moment.
There is something innate, it seems, in artists that I find difficult to find in ordinary people. Somehow artists have hacked this balance as you just expressed. Why do you think that is?
We are free spirits as artists. We embrace tough times the same way we embrace breakthroughs. The grind is always the same.
Read also: Life as an art of negotiation; the life and times of Arthur Nzeribe (1938-2022)
What motivates you to create art?
Art has become a habit for me, an integral part of my daily life. This happens when you have indulged in this practice in the time I have available. So I don’t need any external motivation to create. I am motivated in my waking moments to capture the inner urges that drive me daily to explore all the senses I am blessed with.
What do you think are your biggest artistic influences?
At this point in my career/practice, I am my biggest influence. Anything outside of me will only derail my practice. My work focuses on the essence of my experiences. Of course, I am impressed by the particular works and ideas of certain artists.
Artist: Wiz Kudowor |Title: In Rich Space | Country: Ghana | Medium: Acrylic on canvas | Dimensions: 120 x 150cm | Year: 2019
“In the rich space, we take a journey. Rich, vibrant colors, symmetrical lines and exotic symbols of wealth in traditional African designs highlight this artwork by Wiz. The rich gold tone characterized by images of dwelling places also symbolizes wealth and cultural aesthetics.
What is your current artistic trend inspiration?
My inspiration currently comes from spirituality and the essence of life. I try to capture this essence by exploring abstract thought and exploring the gray areas between the two states of existence, spiritual and physical.
What factors influence the price of your artwork?
I would of course say the age of the work, my attachment to it, then its size, among other things. Generally, I simply demand what I call my “Happy Money” as a price to pay for my creativity.
What have collectors and critics said about your work? How has this affected you?
Right off the bat, I got some interesting comments like,
“Your work is too mysterious”,
“It’s too African” (whatever that means),
“Why do you always paint women? ” and many more.
However, I would say there is a great love for my work. As an artist, you cannot be swayed by people’s reactions and opinions about your work. Your work will suffer. I am not concerned by the comments because my work is me and it is me who determines the orientation of my work. This is why I will remain the artist and they, the collectors, critics and curators. Not all of them can be the same or follow the same guidelines. Art is there to create a new perspective or give a new direction to thought. An artist must always resolve to be true to his heart, no matter what.
How do you manage work-life balance as an artist?
In more than three decades, my practice has been largely separated from my family life. I leave home to engage in creative work like all other workers, then I return home to spend all my time with my family. It hasn’t been an easy routine, but it has worked for me so far. Now that all my children are grown, I have more time to perform as an artist.
What do you think we can do to foster a better industry for African art to thrive locally and globally?
The only thing that immediately comes to mind is to create our own real values for our creative works, instead of the current tendency to look to Europe and the West to validate what we do and put their values on us. We will never be placed on the same keel, no matter how high we rise. We need to control how our works are marketed and sold globally, and at the values we want for them. The other things, I think, are on the right track. We have very good people in the field of art now than before, who create opportunities for development. Time is all it will take for us to realize our true potential.
Wiz is such a phenomenal artist and I had an amazing time talking with him. I hope this conversation with him left you with a lot to dwell on, as it did for me.
Until the next summary,