Owusu-Ankomah’s charged paintings on canvas depict an alternate world wherein monumental human figures – his core motif – are shown moving within an ocean of signs that surround, support and, in fact, define them. The way in which these figures coexist and interact with various symbolic sets has developed through distinct phases over time, reflecting Owusu-Ankomah’s own journey of spiritual discovery. His early work drew heavily on the ancient traditions of African rock-painting and masquerade, before his figures shed their masks and body paintings to become unashamedly visible. Finally, naked and powerful, these eloquent actors became covered in scripts of complex symbols that, in a studied trompe l’oeil effect, camouflage their finely sculpted bodies against alternating backgrounds of relevant and significant signs.
With this new work Owusu-Ankomah further develops these possibilities, adding further visual signs of his own invention to the customary lexicon of adinkra symbols which each represent a particular concept used by the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana. In the same Akan language ‘kusum’ refers to sacred sites involved in the secret performances of mystery rites. By developing new symbols, such as the circle of shining stars which seems to entrance the main figure in the image above, Owusu-Ankomah yokes together ancient traditions of secret knowledge with modern speculations about the mysterious nature of reality derived from modern theoretical physics, which predict the parallel coexistence of multi-dimensional universes within a single ‘multiverse.’