RICHARD MENSAH WAS BORN IN 1978 IN GHANA. HE LIVES AND WORKS IN LONDON, UK.
Mensah works with and paints in different media. He describes himself as a born artist as he has had no formal art/painting education or training. His love for drawing, sketching and painting was noticed at a very young age and in the very early years of his education in Ghana where he was born. He moved to the United Kingdom in the early 2000s and after a break from art for more than 15 years, Richard started painting again circa 2016 and has since been involved in exhibitions and commissions.
His style is mainly intuitive - he conceives an idea to paint but often starts the painting project before the idea is fully formed. He relies on his intuitions to bring his ideas and concept into reality. This mainly means that he does very little preparation before commencing any paintings and doesn't always know how the pieces of ideas come together to fully bring the concept into reality. His key guiding principle for every painting project is with patience every painting always ends well. He is driven by the need to tell the African and Black people story from their own perspective which is often missing in the art world. His paintings attempt to draw in audiences into the event or the story being told thereby bringing it to life for the audience. His paintings also use a lot of different items as symbolism with often a lot of research behind them. These are often left for audiences to find and interpret and or use their visual imagination to fill missing gaps in the story. He takes inspiration from his African heritage, childhood memories and everyday happenings and is very passionate about social issues. He does not limit himself in his work; he paints and creates as inspired. His love of colours, nature and fascination about everyday life scenes show through his work. He is deeply fascinated by shapes, movement and shades and light and tries to capture these in his paintings. His paintings and creations are vivid, bright bold colours, captures various emotions and combines abstract and realism.
Mensah has been involved in numerous exhibitions and was selected in 2020 as one of 25 emerging artist in the UK to watch out for by a Mayfair gallery. He has also been shortlisted and longlisted for numerous awards including the 2021 Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition, the Robert Walters Group UK New Artist of the Year Award and the Jacksons Painting Prize.
2022 Classique!, Group show, AFIKARIS Gallery, Paris, France
YOU OFTEN USE A FABRIC PATTERN IN YOUR BACKGROUND. WHAT DOES IT REPRESENT FOR YOU? The fabric I paint in the background comes from patterns of African textiles. The choice of the fabric has got a meaning linked to the painting. It reflects the story. In the painting Who Gets to Swim, the circles represent black people who are in different parts of the world but who still remain connected. That is why the circles are entangled. The black dots show how spread out we are but still connected to Africa. The banana plantain tree you can see through the window also refers to this reflection.
HOW DO ART HISTORY MILESTONES INFLUENCE YOUR WORK? Other artists influence me more in the way they approach art than in their art in itself. I read about artists to understand their artistic process. Whenever I talk to people about my process, they tell me I’m similar to Leonardo da Vinci. I’m an engineer as well. I’m very observational. When I was reading his book, I realised we both had a similar process. I didn’t know that. It’s an inspiration to have a similar process. I’ve never had an artist that I wanted to copy. My style is really intuitive. I observe and paint. When I see a good painting it gives me inspiration to paint more, to practice and improve my style and technique.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO REINTERPRET DAVID HOCKNEY’S PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST (POOL WITH TWO FIGURES)? AS FOR HOCKNEY’S PIECE, DO YOU SEE WHO GETS TO SWIM AS A SELF-PORTRAIT? Who Gets to Swim is based on David Hockney’s painting. I like his figurative paintings for their vibrant colours. My interpretation of this work could be seen as a self-portrait. It is linked back to the historical lack of access to public pools for Black people in America and also the lack of black people in Olympic water sports. It reflects on the history that happened in the US. We’ve got public pools and our own pools. This painting reflects on historical events not only happening in the US - most black people have got similar experiences. Public access to public swimming pools doesn’t exist in Ghana.
YOUR RECENT WORKS - INCLUDING WHO GETS TO SWIM - SHOWCASE CHARACTERS NEXT TO OR INSIDE WATER. WHY? Recently, I began to explore what water meant to me. I began to be fascinated by water. What I represent, myself as a black person shows part of my history. Water played a role during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Also, as an immigrant or anybody who wants to cross the country, you will have to cross water. Water is linked to everything I do. It is also a symbol of life, transition and problems. Water is an entity of transition. I use water as a symbol to empower people to go back to aquatic sports. Water is an entity that so many black people are afraid of. Water is an existential thing you can enjoy. It represents the many issues happening around this in the modern world. Abundance.