Annan Affotey is a one-of-a-kind painter with a one-of-a-kind heart. In an interview with Arts Help, Affotey delved into his journey and sources of inspiration. Raised in Ghana, a country he fondly characterizes as warm and inviting, he also noted the local discouragement towards pursuing art. Pressured by his father to follow in the family footsteps as an auto mechanic, alongside his brother, Affotey initially complied and used the earnings to finance his education at the Ghanatta College of Art & Design. Eventually, his unwavering passion for art propelled him to leave for Wisconsin in 2014 and subsequently Oxford in 2019.

Three of a Kind by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

Affotey paints portraits of other people as a means to reflect himself, his culture, and his new journey into fatherhood. Affotey's portraits are distinguished by four compelling elements: missing pieces, red eyes, heavy texture and a distinct cobalt teal and black skin tone. These artistic choices do more than define his unique style; they resonate with deeper themes of inclusivity, diversity and human connection. 

The missing pieces invite viewer participation, breaking down barriers between the art and its audience, while the red eyes and cobalt teal and black skin tone challenge conventional perceptions of identity, promoting a broader understanding of cultural and physical differences. The heavy texture of his work extends its accessibility, enabling those with vision impairments to experience art through touch. Together, these elements reflect the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Good Health and Well-Being and Reduced Inequalities by fostering a more inclusive, empathetic and understanding world. Affotey’s approach not only showcases his personal and cultural narrative but also underscores the transformative power of art in advocating for social equity and well-being.

Red Headband by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

By intentionally leaving areas of his paintings blank, usually shown as the subjects having blank hands and arms, Affotey invites his audience to be part of his creative process. He puts the audience in charge leaving the completion of the paintings to their imaginations. 

At one of his exhibitions, Affotey had an encounter that underscores the impact of his work beyond the canvas. He had a conversation with a woman intrigued by a missing element in one of his paintings. Through their exchange, Affotey discovered that her husband, Paul, shared his Ghanaian heritage but had never visited Ghana. Moreover, Paul's sister and nephew, residing in Ghana, had never had the chance to meet Paul in person.

Nature's Complexions by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

Moved by their story, Affotey took it upon himself to bridge this geographical and emotional distance. He not only facilitated a reunion between the separated family members but also created a portrait for Paul. This gesture was more than an act of kindness; it served as a tangible connection to Paul's Ghanaian roots, emphasizing the significant role art plays in uniting people and touching lives.

The distinctive red eyes featured in Affotey's portraits serve as a reflection of both his personal identity and cultural background. Affotey himself has red eyes, a trait he notes is common among many in Ghana, which he speculates might be attributed to environmental factors, possibly pollution. 

Paul and Norma by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

After relocating from Ghana, he found that his red eyes often drew curiosity and misconceptions, particularly in social settings like discos, where red eyes could be misinterpreted. In response to these experiences, Affotey chose to weave this element into his art, which he shared in an interview with Arts Help. 

By doing so, he not only embraces a physical characteristic that defines him but also challenges and broadens viewers' perceptions. The red eyes in his portraits are more than a stylistic choice; they are a statement of identity, a nod to his heritage and a commentary on the diverse ways people are seen and understood across cultures.

Nature's Complexions 2 by Annan Affotry. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

Affotey's artwork is distinguished by its innovative use of heavy textures, a technique that sets his pieces apart in a unique way. By applying modelling paste over acrylic on canvas, he crafts portraits with a rich, tactile surface. This method is thoughtfully designed with the visually impaired in mind, transforming the canvas into a form of "art braille," he shared. 

The pronounced and varied textures invite those with vision impairments to experience and connect with art in a deeply personal way, making the beauty of his work accessible to all and bridging a gap that often leaves art feeling out of reach for some.

Quiet Time With Norma by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annan affotey.

Affotey's portraits are instantly recognizable by their distinctive cobalt teal and black hue, a creative signature that underscores the style and mood of his work, setting them apart. A recurring motif in his art is the presence of dogs, reflecting a personal passion and cultural commentary. In Ghana, the approach to dogs diverges sharply from Western perceptions; there, dogs are often seen more as functional guardians of the home than as companions. 

Despite this, Affotey harbours a deep love for dogs and has initiated a series of paintings celebrating them as man's best friend. Through this work, he aims to challenge and broaden the traditional Ghanaian view of dogs, highlighting their value beyond mere protectors to cherished members of the family. 

Annan Affotey at work in L.A Residency by Annan Affotey. Image courtesy of Annanaffotey.

Affotey’s paintings reflect himself in many ways. However, one thing is certain. In every portrait, he paints and each face he captures, there lies a story to be told of his generosity and kindness. A story that is reflected in the red eyes of the subjects he paints and whose lives he touched. 

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