For several years now, I have been working on integrating conceptually based text and word fragments into my painting on canvas and paper. In 1999, I began to include fragments of texts, words, and letters into abstract, non-representational configurations. This now has become a very prominent feature in my work, and I continue to use that (working) process. In 2003, I started to add figurative personages into my paintings, often as elements that occupy the liminal spaces between fore-and background.
The motifs I focus on appear in repetitions and are worked out in varied forms in series. They originate from various cultural contexts, and through their integration into my artwork they become a kind of very personal cultural archive. Among such repeated motifs are the Afronaut figure and the textual elements in the cycle entitled, Brother Beethoven.
Afronauts are dis-located characters who create and control their own image spaces, where they claim the power to define themselves and to re-negotiate identity ascriptions. They appear, drawn or painted, in a kind of space suit and various head coverings (helmets, hats, caps, etc.), based loosely on Lee Scratch Perry, a Jamaican record producer and musician who used to perform in a similar outfit. Their figurative presence generates disturbances in what is primarily a homogeneous way of painting and it transforms my work into what has been called, painting from the spaces in between (Jochen Meister, Afronauts, 2007, p.14). I place such figures in the tradition of the Ghanaian trickster Anansi the Spider and his modern equivalents Felix the Cat, El Ahrairah and Wile E. Coyote.
I began the Brother Beethoven series of paintings on canvas and paper in 1999 as an effort to lay claim to an icon of Western high culture: in addressing Beethoven as brother, the famed composer - whom we now know to have descended from a grandmother from the former Dutch colonies - is dis-placed into the context of the Black diaspora, highlightning the hybridity inherent in what traditionally used to be defined as White culture. I recently started to work on the African/Not African series.