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Hallucinatory Photographs by an Outsider Artist Defy Convention

Kwesi Abbensetts uses “revisionary self-appropriation” to make stunning portraits reflecting on race and identity.
Alle afbeeldingen met dank aan de fotograaf.

Like hallucinations splashed onto paper, the pictures of Guyanese artist Kwesi Abbensetts seem to abide by no photographic convention, utilizing layered exposures, desaturated hues, and cubist fragmentations to create portraits that seem more like paintings, at times. For his solo show Water Me at Brilliant Champions Gallery in Brooklyn, Abbensetts presents works exploring his own identity and blackness, through an approach he dubs "revisionary self-appropriation."


Though it sounds heady, Abbensetts approach is something of an antithesis to academia and formalized art conventions. The self-taught artist aims to be intuitive rather than overly calculated in his approach. "My work is not based on any particular conceptual notion or any sort of research or historical sorts of representations," he tells Creators. "It's just based on the idea that I intuitively work with whatever information I have, meaning I pretty much just make up the entirety of my own work."

An Oversimplification Of His Beauty, Kwesi Abbensetts

"In the sense of it being revisionary self-appropriation, it's just related to the fact that my work is not directly using any sort of contemporary art as a reference," he adds. "I'm just looking to create something fresh and new in my own mind, using just the tools I have: photography and painting."

Mask Of My Past Series #1, Kwesi Abbensetts

Using his own mind and intuition as a means of creation ultimately leads to a highly intimate and personal approach, yet still one that touches upon highly relevant ideas to today's cultural landscape. "I usually work through 'blood memory;' my work is usually based on random references I have encountered in my life, and these things all bleed into my work," Abbensetts explains. "More specifically, my work deals with the idea of my identity, self, heritage, lineage, and people. It's ultimately just a representation of that."

The Haitian Girl, Kwesi Abbensetts

Double, Kwesi Abbensetts

Mask Of My Past Series #3, Kwesi Abbensetts

Pushing, Kwesi Abbensetts

Water Me was on view at Brilliant Champions Gallery in Brooklyn until August 5, though documentation of the show can be found on the gallery's website. More of Kwesi Abbensetts unorthodox images can be seen here.


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