Quarshie’s intricately detailed portraits are characterised by a unique realism combined with his own distinct visual language. His practice considers the construction of imagery and the boundaries of portraiture. Quarshie’s complex and multi-layered portrayals of beauty queens, businesswomen, and labourers take their narrative from contemporary life in Ghana and emphasise the connections between people otherwise divided by social, economic or geographical conditions. Born in1985 in Accra, Quarshie studied fine art at Ghana’s renowned Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi whose alumni include El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama.
In this exhibition, new paintings from Quarshie’s Yellow is the Colour of Water series comment on Accra’s water shortage problem. An unreliable water network means supply is often cut to homes and people carrying water in yellow plastic jerry cans is a frequent site. The works on view feature mainly women– who are often in charge of collecting water in traditional Ghanaian culture- from all different groups of society to represent the levelling that occurs through this universal human requirement. Quarshie depicts his elderly Grandmother, a young female footballer, a construction worker, a pregnant woman, a Brazilian expat and a nurse amid plain backdrops sitting on top of yellow gallon containers. The artist explains;
‘The search for water is a strong symbol of what brings people together here. It does not matter where you are from, what you do for a living, what social class you are in or even your religious background, if you live in Accra, you are affected by the water problem.’
Quarshie is deeply engaged with the history of art and accumulates various stylistic influences from Dutch Masters to American Photorealism. His compositions are highly-staged and using a photographic way of working, his process begins in creating sets occupied by friends and ordinary people he has found to pose. By constructing and photographing these scenes, he is able to record the subtlety of detail and better recreate textures.