Born in 1985 in Accra Ghana , Artist Jeremiah Quarshire started painting with the most unlikely tools you would imagine, but has now created a name for himself and work, which have been featured across west Africa and in international gallerias. Quarshie studied fine art at Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.
“When I was younger, the water problem in Accra was not as terrible as it is today,” says Jeremiah, “yet it was important to store water since not many households would have a connection in their homes. For those of us who had a connection, it flowed very late at night or at dawn. So we all had to find receptacles for storage.”
The increased prevalence of fast food restaurants around Ghana meant vegetable oil containers, nicknamed “kuffour gallons”, became readily available and affordable, so people without access to regular running water would use them for water storage. “In no time it became the strong cultural symbol of the search for water – the more gallons you’d see in a particular vicinity, the more acute the problem was.”
Jeremiah chose to focus on women for his paintings to highlight the entrenched tradition for women being the water-carriers. “It was a conscious decision to use only women. In Ghanaian culture, women are tasked with the all-important chore of finding and bringing water to the home.”
These women, though, defy the clichés, eclectic in persona and role in society. From a housewife to Miss World Africa, a boxer and a soldier, among others, the subjects of Jeremiah’s works are depicted as strong, confident and individual, uncannily realistic in the artist’s vivid palette.
Quarshie’s practice takes its narrative from contemporary life in Ghana, with particular emphasis on the passage of water throughout Accra—as embodied through the yellow “Kufuor” gallons used for storing and carrying it. Born in 1985 in Accra, Quarshie studied fine art at Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.
The exhibition is based out of Gallery 1957 at the Kempinski Hotel, and maps out to a body of site-specific interventions. The gallery segment of the show features new paintings from Quarshie’s Yellow is the Colour of Water series—portraits of beauty queens, businesswomen, and labourers, who sit atop arrangements of these ubiquitous yellow containers amid plain black backdrops.
Quarshie’s intricately detailed portraits are characterised by a unique realism combined with his own distinct visual language. Appropriating from Old Masters’ traditions and aspects of studio photography, his work questions the construction of imagery and the boundaries of portraiture. Quarshie removes this practice from the landscape of the elite, re-positioning it as a medium for raising critical questions about social conditions of the masses. The yellow gallons become both backdrop and throne—paradoxical points of failure and hope.
Quarshie’s exhibition extends beyond the gallery walls, encompassing off-site sculptural works which mark a new direction for the artist. Projects at a local lorry station, a hospital, an airport, and the water company itself, chart critical locations and sites of movement within the Accra landscape. Intervening in architectures of state, corporate, and public institutions, Quarshie re-purposes pipes and hoses as minimalist sculptures, a subtle rupture in the conventional flow of things.
Meet the Makers #1 Jeremiah Quarshie, the hyperrealist
Quarshie lives and works in Accra today. His paintings have been included in exhibitions internationally including: The Gown Must Go To Town…, National Museum of Science and Technology, Accra (2015); Silence Between the Lines, Prime Motors Ltd., Kumasi (2015); The Munich-project, Global Art — Local View, Villa Mohr, Munich (2014); Muses, Goethe Institut, Accra (2013); The ‘Sabi Yu Rutu’ project, Suriname (2013); Kaleidoscope, La Villa Boutique, Accra (2013); Time, Trade and Travel, Nubuke Foundation, Accra and Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA), Amsterdam (2012); and The Ghana-project, Global Art — Local View, Goethe Institut, Accra (2012).
Founded in Accra by collector Marwan Zakhem, Gallery 1957 is a new gallery with a curatorial focus on contemporary Ghanaian art presenting a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the country’s most significant artists.