Samuel Achiaw, 'Turandot', graphite and carbon on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, 'Turandot', graphite and carbon on grained paper

Hyper-realistic Portraits Full of Beauty and Grace: Samuel Owusu Achiaw at Scottish Arts Club Edinburgh

Title:
Art in words and Hyperrealism 

Dates:
9 Feb 2022 – 5 Mar 2022

Times:
Tue - Sat 11:00 - 18:00

Venue:
Scottish Arts Club
24 Rutland Square
Edinburgh
Edinburgh & the Lothians
EH1 2BW

In art, there is no need for colour; I see only light and shade. Give me a crayon, and I will paint your portrait’ – Francisco Goya

There are two totally contrasting exhibitions at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh which are both certainly worth taking a visit to view. Upstairs is The Landscape, featuring selected highlights from the Club’s own collection complemented by artwork by members. In the downstairs gallery is an outstanding showcase of portraits – Art in Hyperrealism by Samuel Owusu Achiaw. Finely crafted in graphite, carbon, pencil and crayon, mainly black and white so you would be forgiven for assuming these are photographs. 

The art of portraiture has been highlighted recently on television: Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2021, won by the young Scottish artist, Calum Stevenson, and a new BBC series beginning March 2022, Extraordinary Portraits.

Samuel Achiaw is a self-taught artist, having trained as a medical doctor in Ghana before moving to Glasgow to take a Masters degree in Public Health.  As a University student he returned to his childhood talent for drawing, experimenting with illustrations and inspired by fashion photography to learn about capturing a true likeness.   

Samuel Achiaw, 'Melanin', graphite and carbon on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Melanin’, graphite and carbon on grained paper

A portrait of Mamley Djangmah, a Ghanaian model, is entitled Melanin, which refers to the dark brown / black pigment responsible for tanning the skin exposed to sunlight. She stares out at the viewer with almond shaped eyes with glistening irises and her smooth skin is so detailed to show the tiny pores – her face half in sunlight and half in shadow. This has the uncanny focused precision of a photograph. ‘I believe my background in anatomy influenced my interest in human faces’ – Samuel Achiaw

Samuel Achiaw, 'Le Petit Prince'. graphite and carbon on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Le Petit Prince’. graphite and carbon on grained paper

The wide grin of a young boy is the subject of Le Petit Prince, the title perhaps borrowed from the classic French tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery which explores a child’s search for knowledge and understanding: ‘But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart’, believes the young prince. Here there is such energy and enthusiasm in the boy’s smile, his sparkling eyes reflecting a true sense of happiness.  

Samuel Achiaw, 'Jolie', graphite, carbon and colour pencil on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Jolie’, graphite, carbon and colour pencil on grained paper

Simply called Jolie (French for pretty), this is the American actress Angelina Jolie, with a dramatic drizzle of crimson paint or blood, dripping from her pink lipstick-tinted lips. Exquisite texture from the strands of hair, neat eyebrows and her soft woollen polo neck sweater.  With a mischievous glint in her eyes expressing light hearted humour, this would be a fabulous, iconic Vogue cover portrait.

Samuel Achiaw, 'Lupi can do no Wrong', graphite and carbon on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Lupi can do no Wrong’, graphite and carbon on grained paper

The Kenyan Hollywood actress, Lupita Nyong’o is captured in Lupi can do no Wrong (a witty play on her name), given a more subdued, serious mood and mode with soft light and shade dappling her youthful silky skin and bare shoulders, the folds of her cotton shirt drawn with such realism.

Samuel Achiaw, 'Turandot', graphite and carbon on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Turandot’, graphite and carbon on grained paper

A love of opera and choral music inspired Achiaw to create his own vision of Puccini’s Turandot character in a pencil portrait of the fashion supermodel, Christy Turlington with glamorous theatrical style. 

Samuel Achiaw, 'Mort de la Mer No. 2' graphite and carbon on Hahnemuhle Bristol paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Mort de la Mer No. 2’, graphite and carbon on Hahnemuhle Bristol paper

As well as portraits of people, Samuel has experimented with everyday themes such as the Mort de la Mer series. The stark, black empty shell of the lobster with jagged claws is a potent image to reflect on the pollution of our oceans.

Samuel Achiaw, 'Citrus in Manibus,' graphite, carbon and charcoal on grained paper
Samuel Achiaw, ‘Citrus in Manibus,’ graphite, carbon and charcoal on grained paper

The translucent structure of an orange or large lemon in close up, Citrus in Manibus features one pip, perhaps symbolising the fragility of nature and growth from a seed. 

Having won awards in a few writing competitions in Ghana, the exhibition also includes examples of Samuel’s poetry, Art in Words. Culturally, there has long been a creative link between medical professionals and the humanities: Anton Chekhov, John Keats, Arthur Conan Doyle, Carlo Levi, William Carlos Williams, Alexander McCall Smith et al. Demonstrating his exceptional – indeed truly extraordinary – ability as both a photo-realist Portrait artist and a literary poet, Dr. Samuel Achiaw could indeed be called a modern Renaissance Man: a person with genuine competence, able to accomplish anything to which he commits his time, talent, creativity and energy.

Wait, Stop, Live

‘The darkness of the night fades, the skies now azure,

The leaves unfurl, the diamond dews fall glittering,

The cocoon breaks, the caterpillar flies a butterfly,

The night returns, the skies a mosaic of colors,

Wait, stop, look, smile;

Life is a handsome painting’.

– Samuel Achiaw

Admission is free: tickets booked via Eventbrite.

With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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