Artist in Residence

JOSHUA DONKOR

In residence 31st October - 29th January 2023.


Joshua Donkor is a Ghanaian-British painter whose work uses portraiture as a tool to subvert monolithic portrayals of Black identity. Joshua approaches portraiture as a collaborative exercise between him and his sitters. His process involves meeting with the subjects of his paintings on multiple occasions and going through their personal effects and photographs. Joshua works with them to identify the images that most potently convey the details of their personal narrative, including family photos, fabrics, and personal belongings. Each portrait he paints includes both the image of the sitter, as well as layered visual references to all of the items they picked out together.

The material depth of the paintings comes about through Joshua’s method of transferring layer after layer onto the surfaces of his paintings. Using a range of different painting and printing and layering techniques, he literally embeds the histories of his sitters into the work.  Although the subject matter of Joshua’s paintings is deeply personal and completely idiosyncratic—often having to deal with specific African roots and the individual experiences specific people have had growing up Black in Western societies—all types of viewers have been able to respond deeply to the images. Somehow, widely relatable content is communicated through the specificity of the images.

Whilst in the studio, Joshua will continue to develop his new body of work, ‘I Have More Souls Than One’, which seeks to explore transcultural and African Diasporic experiences in the Western world and how this is felt through the different generations of family. Joshua describes the inspiration behind this concept:

“This project stemmed from my most recent journey back to Ghana at the start of 2022 with my cousin. As we have grown older our relationship with Ghana has continued to evolve. 2022 represented somewhat of a passing of the torch as my cousin was expected to take on more responsibilities within her family.  This brought into focus many questions about our relationship and connection to Ghana as members of the African Diaspora. Although we have grown up with many Ghanaian cultural influences within our lives, unlike our parents and those before, we have not grown up there.  This has led to a feeling of slight disconnection from our heritage, felt most notably whenever we return. 

With the goals of sharing and talking about the different ways people have navigated these spaces, Joshua hopes to continue having these conversations with people he meets whilst in residency and create a series of portraits mapping individuals’ experiences spanning across the diaspora, time periods and generations within families. Taking a collaborative approach, Joshua plans to engage with hotel guests and staff, as well as the general public, to facilitate an open and inclusive conversation. Further expanding on this, Joshua plans to collaborate with local artists in the area in the creation of new works.

For the duration of his residency, Joshua will take over the Contemporary Collective Instagram account to document his experience in the studio space. This takeover will feature process shots and final artworks to provide insight into the artist’s creative process, as well as weekly summaries including video clips of various activities taking place in the residency space and the development of ongoing work. Joshua will also host a Visual Storytelling Workshop and an Image Transfer Workshop to further engage the community with his artistic processes.


Art Yard Maker’s Studio has an open-house policy, so if you‘re visiting our neighbourhood’s major art galleries, Southbank Centre, Tate Modern or Hayward Gallery why not stop by to see an artist at work.


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