Making Art is a way of making contacts with life
In order to reach Glen Turner's house you have to drive over bumpy red dust roads in the direction of Achimota, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Accra. His house, which is situated on a hill, is an oasis of plants and flowers. The sloping roof can hardly be seen under the abundance of climbing ivy. Once inside, you are greeted with a delicious cappuccino; Glen's wife is Italian. The large living room with self-made furniture also functions as his studio. From the paintings on the wall you can clearly see the development of Turner's work from realistic paintings of Ghanaian women and musicians, to a much more abstract style.
Glen Tuner was born in Accra in 1959 and started painting at an early age. "When I started of painting, I started very young, like two or three years old. I didn't know of all these concepts or preconceived academic ideas, so for me basically it was magic. As I grew older and I was still painting I thought it was a little bit funny not to know exactly were I was going, intellectually". What Turner did know was that he did not want to have an academic art education. Glen Turner believes that painters and sculptors who have graduated from university think they are artists because they have a diploma. They show off their book knowledge but do not know what real art is. "You have to develop yourself from within, something which you cannot get out of a textbook". Turner is currently one of the most successful autodidactic artists in Ghana. His work has been shown in exhibitions in New York, London, Paris and Bologna.
An excursion into the past
In his work, Turner refers to African history through cave paintings, kente motifs and masks. According to Glen, Africans should take some distance and return to their roots to investigate their history; only in this way will Africa be able to develop. Africa is currently too dependent on the West and Africans need to re-discover their pride. "If right now I start to tell the West to stop worshipping God, I will be lynched or considered foolish. So, why should I feel funny, revisiting juju (voodoo), not as a form of religion, but as an intellectual exercise. And see what was in there, where we got lost, what we are missing. Because as a continent, it cannot be that bad, we are humans, we have blood flowing through us. There is always red in my brown sketches, to represent life. All the sculptures, mask you see in my paintings are kind of antique, but I put blood in there for it to live and breathe African. I am not approaching the past from a religious angle. I am talking of the by-products of that form of worship. Because we created all those masks and symbols and kente to say something, there was a message in there. That is what I am looking at. Through that I try to discover and challenge myself, look deeper and this may come out with things that may help us to change a bit and not be too depended on the West, because it is very embarrassing".
Links Assafo sales site featuring various artists from Ghana, including Glen Turner Paintings by Glen Turner from the SBK exhibition