Previous exhibitions and projects
Marfo’s work has been exhibited internationally in Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York, Barcelona and London.
Spirit & Soul, Johnson’s Gallery, London, 2015
Spirit & Soul, Originals Art Gallery, Poole, 2010
African Concept of Brutalism, Martin Lockwood, London, 2009
African Concept of Brutalism, Wimbledon Library, Wimbledon, 2006
Dawn Of A New nation, Whitgift Centre, Croydon, 2004
The Gallery On The Corner, London, 2016
Brick Lane Gallery, 2014
Colliers Wood Library, 2013
Wimbledon Library, 2011
About the artist
Kojo Marfo was born in Kwahu Tafo in eastern Ghana. At the age of seven, he moved to Accra where he lived with his grandmother whilst his mother was studying in Europe. Marfo enrolled in successive art courses at the University of Ghana, New York University and Central Saint Martins in London with the intention of studying African art and textiles. However studying art at university did not quite work for Marfo. Disappointed by the inflexible structure of learning and the similarities between these institutions, Marfo dropped out of each one and decided to learn and develop his artistic practice on his own terms.
Marfo spent two years living and practicing in New York City before moving back to Ghana and then to England, where he now lives and works as an artist full time.
Sources of inspiration
Marfo’s great grandmother was a traditional priest in Ghana and he grew up surrounded by African artefacts that had a mythological connection to spirits or saints. This made Marfo view art as a meaningful form of expression from an early age. As a young boy, he first learned to sketch puppets from Saturday morning children TV shows. When he moved to New York in the 1990’s, Marfo was drawn to the graffiti art scene of the city as well as the African art showcased in its galleries.
TV show puppets, street art, and African heritage come together in his paintings through linear and colourful characters. Motley figures dauntingly occupy his pieces as hallucinated apparitions staring back at the viewer. Marfo’s noticeable style is frequently complemented with words, boldly written alongside his vibrant characters, serving as a memento of the initial idea from which the piece was created.
Marfo’s early works only used two colours: black and red, which are the colours of most of the deities he was used to from his hometown in Ghana. These works strove to redefine what was (and sometimes still is) quickly dismissed as primitive African religion.
Sparked by a pervasive frustration with social inequalities, Marfo’s art developed as both a personal exploration of the world around him and a means to contrast joyful childhood memories with harsh modern day realities. His desire to address struggles that people ordinarily tend to shy away from allows him to create arresting pieces of art which touch on a multitude of topics such as the role of religion and spirituality in modern societies to prostitution, globalisation and human relationships.
“I want to try to inspire people to really think about the environment they live in and to be able to tell it to the world from their own perspective.” – Kojo Marfo.