Annan Affotey at his exhibition with De Buck Gallery, Saint-Paul de Vence.

Oxford-based artist Annan Affotey navigates Black identity through portraiture. His paintings focus on women and men of color with vibrant dark skin and soul-filled, red eyes. He surrounds his figures in negative space allowing each subject to tell their own story. Affotey’s paintings highlight the nuances of the facial expression and examine a story that goes beyond surface level.

Affotey was born in 1985 in Accra, Ghana. He graduated from Ghanatta College of Art and Design in 2007 with a degree in Drawing & Painting. In 2013, Affotey helped found the African Young Artist Organization (AYAO), a group dedicated to supporting African youth in the arts through education and exhibitions.

Affotey brings everyday experiences into intensely colorful, textured and expressive compositions. Earlier this year, Affotey had a solo exhibition at Danny First’s Cabin in Los Angeles. His work has also been exhibited in New York City, London, Miami and Accra.


Annan Affotey in his studio. Image courtesy of the artist.

Annan Affotey’s paintings are influenced by two main factors: growing up in the presence of strong women and the cultural diversity he’s experienced through living in Ghana, Europe and the United States. The combination of these experiences brings a diverse narrative to his work, exploring the nuanced stories and meanings behind his subjects’ faces and bodies.

His subjects are often friends or are influenced by people he meets on social media, adding his signature deep red hues to the eyes and bright clothing.

The works are both rich in detail and texture. Before painting in the details of each figure, the artist applies a layer of modeling paste over the pencil sketch, creating waves and ridges dramatically throughout the piece. Before the painting is completely finished– Affotey stops, always leaving an arm or a small detail untouched by the paint. This has become yet another defining style of his process.

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