Emmanuel Taku - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'The importance of capturing two figures in juxtaposition was to create a sense of consolidation, synergy, and unity. The anthropomorphic silhouettes created by the bodies engulfed in silkscreened fabric print are emphatic of this unity.' —Emmanuel Taku

    Immediately arresting in its large scale, bold patterning, and striking treatment of the Black figure, My Brother’s Keeper is a preeminent example of contemporary Ghanaian artist Emmanuel Taku’s practice. A graduate in Visual Arts and Textiles from the Ghanatta Institute of Art and Design, Taku makes use of a wide variety of materials and approaches, combining silkscreening methods, textiles, acrylic, and collaged newspaper on a painted canvas, fiberglass, or plywood ground. Frequently featuring twins or doubles with titles emphasising these familial bonds, Taku’s portraits use pattern and decoration to explore deeper questions related to identity, representation, and the Black body.

     

    Emmanuel Taku at the Noldor Residency, Accra, Ghana working on his painting The Amethyst Pair, sold at Phillips London in July 2021.
    Emmanuel Taku at the Noldor Residency, Accra, Ghana working on his painting The Amethyst Pair, sold at Phillips London in July 2021.

     

    Band of Brothers

     

    Executed in 2020 during Taku’s time with Ghana’s first independent artist’s residency program, the Noldor Residency, My Brother’s Keeper was also included in his first solo exhibition, Temple of Blackness - It Takes Two. As the artist describes, ‘This body of work came to me as an idea when I heard John Akomfrah speak about his experience as a child referring to museums capturing artwork by Turner and Constable as a ‘Temple of Whiteness’. I just remembered how that clicked for me and I truly wanted to create my own “Temple of Blackness” capturing black people as demi-gods or heroes without pupils or eyes.’i

     

    Against a backdrop of broader calls to decolonise these European museum collections, Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two played with classical tradition and modes of representation in the creation of a new metaphorical space, a temple within which to honour a new cast of Black gods and heroes. Presented in strong, statuesque poses with blank, pupilless eyes, Taku’s figures recall ancient Greco-Roman sculptures, although the artist radically updates this classical visual language with his distinctive paisley screen-printing process and idiosyncratic collage technique. While the opalescent eyes of Taku’s figures from this body of work identify them as deities worthy of reverence, the intricately collaged newspaper material that adorns their faces makes a subtle but suggestive point about the complex construction of identity, and of the media’s role in the politicising and objectifying the Black body.

     

    The Power of Print

     

    Visually recalling the highly decorative surfaces of Viennese Successionist Gustav Klimt’s most celebrated works, and his masterful grasp of pattern’s propensity towards abstraction, the twinned figures in My Brother’s Keeper stand cheek to cheek, their bodies merging and separating in the flattening passages of green paisley that dominate the central section of the composition. Although Taku describes the painting as a portrait of the Residency’s founder Joseph Awuah-Darko, Taku’s doubled composition here not only speaks to the complex duality of any individual, but also of the uncanny likeness existing between the artist and his subject here. Creating a striking contrast against the pastel blue background, the layers of abstraction produced by the stunning green print heightens this confusion or blending of corporeal boundaries – what the artist describes as a mode of ‘figurative surrealism’ designed to ‘reclaim a Black narrative and identity’.ii

     

    [LEFT] Gustav Klimt, Der Kuss (The Kiss), detail, 1907-08, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Image: Bridgeman Images  CAPTION: [RIGHT] Detail of the present work
    [LEFT] Gustav Klimt, Der Kuss (The Kiss), detail, 1907-08, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Image: Bridgeman Images 
    [RIGHT] Detail of the present work

     

    As well as playfully engaging with modes of abstraction in his treatment of these twinned bodies, the use of paisley in Taku’s practice also takes on political and culturally specific dimensions. As the artist describes in more detail: ‘The use of floral paisley prints comes from my personal fascination with the pattern and fabric that has always been a part of my life since youth – whether as a tablecloth or in garments. I also felt that paisley represents a melting pot of cultural identity; first being fashioned in India and expanding in reach before becoming adopted into a British sensibility and finally the sartorial mainstream. I’ve always worn paisley and have been practicing portraiture and art for almost ten years.’iii

     

    With a background in textiles himself, Taku links his silkscreen practice to the textile work produced by his mother and sister, at once a powerful expression of his own, lived experience and a celebration of the rich cultural history of West African textile design. In these compelling combinations of pattern and portraiture, My Brother’s Keeper also makes visual reference to the hugely significant post-colonial West African studio photography of the likes of Sanlé Sory and Malick Sidibé. In this manner, his portraits bear striking similarities to the effective reference to pattern, fabric, and mid-century West African photography employed in the work of Taku’s friend and fellow graduate from the Ghanatta Institute of Art and Design, Amoako Boafo, whose work is also represented in Phillips’ London Evening Sale this June.

     

    Malick Sidibé, Deux femmes dans le studio en africaine, 1978. Artwork: © Malick Sidibé Estate
    Malick Sidibé, Deux femmes dans le studio en africaine, 1978. Artwork: © Malick Sidibé Estate

     

    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Accra in 1986, and a graduate of the Ghanatta Institute of Art and Design alongside friend Amoako Boafo, Emmanuel Taku is one of the region’s most prominent emerging figurative artists.

     
    • Following the success of his first solo exhibition as the inaugural artist of the Noldor Residency Program, Taku’s most recent solo show The Chosen Few was presented at Maruani Mercier, Brussels in 2021.

     

    • The current auction record for the artist was achieved for his work Sisters in Lilac, which sold at Phillips London for over 10 times its low estimate In March 2022.

     

    i Emmanuel Taku quoted in ‘Joseph Awuah-Darko and Emmanuel Taku Interviewed by Africa First’, 25 February, 2021, online.
    ii Emmanuel Taku, quoted in Romina Román, ‘Emmanuel Taku: Ghana’s Finest and Brightest’, Metal, 2020 online
    iii Emmanuel Taku, quoted in ‘Joseph Awuah-Darko and Emmanuel Taku Interviewed by Africa First’, 25 February, 2021, online.

    • Condition Report

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    • Description

      View our Conditions of Sale.

    • Provenance

      The Noldor Residency, Accra
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Accra, The Noldor Residency, Temple of Blackness - It Takes Two, 4 December 2020 - 17 January 2021

    • Literature

      Romina Román, ‘Emmanuel Taku – Ghana’s finest and brightest’, METAL Magazine, January 2021 (illustrated, online)
      Meghan Grech, ‘Black Identity and Power: Emmanuel Taku’s Mixed Media Portraiture’, Casper Magazine, 10 February 2021 (installation view illustrated, online)
      Sam Gaskin, ‘Ghana’s Noldor Residency Draws Artists to Former Pharmaceutical Factory’, Ocula Magazine, 23 March 2021 (illustrated, online)
      Cristina Samper, ‘Feel Hypnotised with the Gaze and Clothes in Emmanuel Taku's Subjects’, Art of Choice, 28 June 2021 (illustrated, online)

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My Brother's Keeper

signed and dated 'TAKU 2020 TAKU 2020' on the reverse
acrylic and newspaper collage on canvas
210 x 145 cm (82 5/8 x 57 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£30,000 - 50,000 

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Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741
[email protected]

 

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022