Abigail Cudjoe is a multimedia artist and educator of diasporic heritage. She’s also an Indie Studio Resident at SKETCH Abigail considers the representation of black beauty, aiming to both evoke emotions and connect with the perceiver. In focusing on features that are simultaneously shamed and coveted, Abigail reclaims their perfection. The bold colours and lines intertwine to create uplifting feelings, allowing their abstraction to meet the viewer halfway as interactive stimuli.
My creative practice focuses on having art that is very minimalist. I try to take away as many details as possible to allow the viewer to start their own thoughts or conversations around the piece. I’m a lot more interested in knowing what a person sees in my art as opposed to conveying a specific message. I do, however, focus my art on presentations of black beauty. In terms of exactly what is being conveyed, it’s up to the person seeing it.
Artist Abigail Cudjoe at the Black Artists Market in Toronto, February 2017
It’s a bit like thinking about the Gestalt theory–it’s a psychological phenomenon where humans will create a whole even though they are only offered parts of an image. There are optical illusions created (i.e. you’ll see four circles and a quarter of each circle is missing, but when you look at the image as a whole, the person will see a square. So our brains will do their best to see stimuli and context and fill in the rest.)
My practice is self-taught, and I’ve been creating things since I was able to hold a pencil. I used to draw and doodle all over the walls of my apartment when I was young. My dad was a developmental psychologist and encouraged my expression. So I graduated from the walls of my apartment to a single door. I was seven when I got my first sketchbook from my mom. I also remember when I got one of those really cool art kits with the paints, brushes, markers and coloured pencils. The quality was so horrible, but it was great being able to create and document my progress. The only formal art class I took was when I was in grade nine during high school.
I heard about Indie Studio when I met a woman at my first art show who took an interest in my practice and told me about this opportunity at SKETCH. I really appreciate this space. It was really hard at the beginning because I had to get accustomed to allocating time in the week to practice my painting but it’s really important to me to be surrounded by other creatives. Even though we’re not working on the same things, people are very encouraging and supportive so it helps with my practice.
I use art as a form of therapy and as a way to represent myself, other black people, and women in spaces. I guess I use it as a way to convey that I value other black people and their beauty and that we don’t necessarily have to wait for that validation from others.
TUSH, 2017. Mixed Media on Canvas
The people I see daily often will inspire the features that I use in my paintings. So the shapes of their eyes and especially their noses and their lips are what I focus on the most. There are a couple of paintings that I’ve done that were directly inspired by friends and family members, so some paintings do have stories and a meaning behind them, but I will only share if I’m asked.
The audience that tends to appreciate my art the most are people of colour but I guess that’s because that’s who I represent in my art. In terms of where I want my art to go…I don’t know. I shared my art because it was strongly suggested by a friend of mine so now I’m asked to share my art here and there. So I don’t have any specific place I’d like it to go but I’m kinda going with the flow.
AKOBEN, 2017. Mixed Media on Canvas
I would say to any emerging artists out there to practice art for yourself first and if it’s something that you would like to eventually share with others, then do it when you’re ready. If one’s practice becomes sacred and private, know that is valid as well. There were two pieces I created when I was going through a lot of difficulty, and I actually didn’t show them to anyone until two weeks later. Despite feeling vulnerable, I was ready to share the pieces.
Art is subjective and private so it doesn’t have to be immediately commercial if someone doesn’t share. And again, it’s totally valid.
Photo credits: @spiritstock and Abigail Cudjoe