Pabi Daniel: We Gonne be Alright

Pabi Daniel - Champions of the game 2022
Pabi Daniel - Champions of the game 2022

Pabi Daniel: We Gonne be Alright
12 October – 9 November 2022
Ed Cross
19 Garrett Street

Ed Cross, is delighted to present We Gonne be Alright, an exhibition of new work from young Ghanaian painter Pabi Daniel. Following the success of Daniel’s presentation with Anne Villepoix in Paris earlier this year, We Gonne be Alright will feature more than a dozen new paintings at the Ed Cross’s new central London gallery. Running between 12 October and 9 November, We Gonne be Alright coincides with 1-54 – London’s Contemporary African Art Fair — and Frieze London, and will mark Daniel’s first UK solo show.

Pabi Daniel - In Crystal Clear Water I See My Shadow, 2022
In Crystal Clear Water I See My Shadow, 2022

Aged just 23, Daniel is already emerging as one of the most exciting artists working in Ghana today. Largely self-taught, he uses portraiture as a medium to engage in conversations about identity, cultural expression and preservation, always relishing the act of painting itself. Applying pigment in sculptural layers as well as smooth washes, Daniel prompts his audience 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? 

Pabi Daniel Protection, 2022
Protection, 2022

Depictions of the artist’s personal heroes – including the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh and painter Amoako Boafo – sit alongside less recognisable (though no less powerful) renderings of anonymous young black men and women. For Daniel, such representation is paramount to his practice’s ethos:

Pabi Daniel said, “History has been nothing but a cover up when it comes to the story of Africans. The story of my people I feel has always been brushed under the carpet for far too long… so I feel burdened as an artist to lift the carpet up and represent what has always been there – the thriving cultural evolution of my people. My responsibility is not just to make beautiful paintings but to make bold representations that clearly defines the space of black people in our history.”

Ed Cross, Director, said, “Pabi’s work defies the usual superlatives. At just 22 years of age, he shows exceptional technical accomplishments and daring. Revelling in 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. At the gallery, we have long been champions for new and emerging artists that have something to say, providing a platform to show their work to a global audience.”

Pabi Daniel - Champions of the game 2022
Champions of the game 2022

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?

©2022 Pabi Daniel