British-Ghanaian multi-disciplinary artist Adelaide Damoah stands at the confluence of painting and performance, her artistry resonating within the tapestry of themes encompassing colonialism, ecology, identity, feminism, and radical joy.
After graduating from Kingston University London with a degree in applied biology, her career within the pharmaceutical industry was curtailed when she received a diagnosis of the chronic illness, endometriosis. It was during multiple periods of convalescence that she discovered her devotion to art.
In her current practice, Damoah employs an array of mediums and techniques, including storytelling through performance and filmmaking, utilising artificial intelligence, image transfer methods, body printing, and painting. These elements converge to weave a narrative that delves deep into her own familial history, ultimately extending to a profound exploration of imperialistic and capitalistic expansion and the enduring ecological ramifications it bears.
At the centre of Damoah’s practice lies a concept she defines as “generating a spontaneous communi(cati)on between myself and an audience.” Through her performances, she serves as a conduit, channelling a recorded history that was once known, then obscured by time, only to resurface with uncanny familiarity in the present moment, only to slip once more into obscurity at the performance’s conclusion. Each of her performances represents a mythopoetic creation, born of organic processes. These processes are intricately tied to her sensory perception of the world, encompassing both unambiguous, explicit, and literal experiences as well as the more elusive, implicit, and metaphorical dimensions of existence. This interplay also draws upon the wellspring of memory images, both individual and collective, derived from her multisensory experiences and the profound impact of her diasporic journey.
Adelaide Damoah has works in both public and private collections, nationally and internationally, including the UK Government Art Collection and Fondation H in Paris and Madagascar. Damoah has exhibited in national and international galleries/institutions including Gagosian, serves on the boards of two art charities and was a co-founder/founding member of two art collectives. Her main influences are Carolee Schneemann, Judy Chicago, David Hammons, Yves Klein, Sokari Douglas Camp, and Ana Mendieta.
(Born: 1976, London. Lives and works in London, UK)
“Damoah is interested in the use of recorded history to generate a spontaneous response. Where the previously known becomes unknown and becomes known again. The uncanny- the familiar within the familiar, or the unfamiliar within the familiar. Through her performances, she is the channel by which the previously unknown becomes known again. Damoah’s performances are products of organic processes which depend not only on the different modes of sensory perception of her body of unambiguous (i.e. explicit and literal) and ambiguous (i.e. implicit and metaphorical) processes and events taking place in their multi-sensory perceptions of the sensory world; but also on the individual (mental and bodily sensory) and collective (cultural) memory-images she derives from both these different modes of perception and their diasporic experiences.
The processes of production of such mythopoetic artwork may be conceived in terms of life-cycles in which the ancestral life that was previously unknown – and therefore alien become known in the artwork, only to become partially/totally replaced by another life which was previously unknown. Damoah uses her work to explore the unstable boundary distinctions between the human ‘subjective self’ and the non human ‘objective other’ materials of nature with which she conjointly produces these artworks. A viewer of her performances may experience both an enhanced/impaired distinction between his/her self’ and the profane/sacred ‘other’ life(s) in a (sub)liminal ‘zone’ of perception that was previously forbidden to him/her; and encourages the viewer to attribute mysterious, enigmatic and unfixed meanings to the ancestral/new life.
[Her] visual artmaking contests the outdated idols and ideologies of colour, race, creed and gender imposed both on her – and on the Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric history of her family – by colonialism and neo-colonialism. Damoah revalues – and thereby unbinds herself from – these outdated idols and ideologies by using the Promethean artist the fire of her mythopoetic thinking to magically produce artistic images that function as ‘crucibles’ in which she (al)chemically interweaves materialised the artist’s memory-traces of her family in the past and the present.”
Extract From Stephen Baycroft’s essay: Beginning a new life by revaluing idols and ideologies © 2018.
Photo of Adelaide Damoah by Martin Sensyzak for Carolina Herrera, 2022