Pabi Daniel

Based in Accra, Ghana, Pabi Daniel is a painter fascinated by painting itself. Applying pigment in sculptural layers as well as smooth washes, Daniels’ practice prompts its viewer to consider paint’s sociological aspects as well as its material reality: who have painters been, in canonical – Western – art history? Who have been their muses, and how might those categories be troubled by a painter beyond those confines? 


Almost cartoonish in their abstraction, Daniel’s subjects are as soft as they are jarring. Frequently nestled into the fur of a lapdog or cat, ripples in texture and colour obscure parts of faces even as their owners gaze serenely out of their frames. Reminiscent of burns, scars and sores on the one hand, Daniel’s rumpled visages recall an unmixed palette on the other. Again and again, the eye belonging to the disrupted tranche of face is painted pupil-less: a white crescent, arching around an absence, like a new moon or a fingernail.


Poised always at the threshold of revelation, Daniel’s protagonists are as particular as they are universal: their identities might be out of reach, but they’re all the more tantalising for it. Who would a subject become, if only the painting’s surface could settle like the surface of a windswept lake? As one perfect eye meets the viewer’s, the other hangs static, implicating the inadequacy of our own vision in its unfinishedness. Can you see things as they are? it asks. How would you know?


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Pabi’s work defies the usual superlatives. At twenty-three years of age he shows exceptional  technical accomplishments and daring. Revelling in the influences from contemporary Ghanaian masters and the world of digital animation that engulfs us all, he creates extraordinary paintings that are eclectic yet coherent, mysterious and utterly convincing.

-Ed Cross, Director