In late 2020 Ghanaian born, Sunderland based contemporary glass artist Anthony Amoako-Attah was approached by Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens to produce a new glass artwork ‘Transition IV’ for the museum’s collection.
Below Anthony explores ‘Transition IV’ in detail, from the original concept, inspiration and design for the work, through to the many symbols and references that combine into the final intricate pattern.
Anthony discusses how objects from Sunderland Museum’s collection and Adinkra symbols from Ghanaian culture collide to represent his shifting dual identity. The work further navigates the colours, patterns and symbols associated with Sunderland’s overarching industrial heritage.
‘Transition IV’, alongside the three other ‘Transition’ works in the series, will be on display in Sunderland Museum & Winter Garden’s Art Gallery between 2 April – 9 June 2022.
Meet the Artist
I am a contemporary Ghanaian glass artist who views glass as a ‘western material’. I aim to manipulate glass to look like woven fabric, I achieve this by screen-printing using glass powders, glass enamels, waterjet cutting and finishing the process through kiln forming. I perceive glass as a language, platform or container to express my cultural identity.
My work concentrates on social, political, and cultural issues that intertwine with integration, migration, dislocation and my personal identity through the use of Ghanaian cultural Adinkra symbols and native Kente patterns. I am marvelled by the way fabrics are made and the drape-like fold which bears the mental and physical expressions of the weaver and wearer.
‘Transition’ is series of glass artworks that talk about my life from childhood dreams through to the realities of life. Each stage of my life is represented by fabrics. I believe the clothes we wear determine our mood and vice versa.
Design and concept
I started the design for the glass work by researching the museum’s collection, especially the industries Sunderland was built on such as coalmining, shipbuilding, glass production and pottery making. The objects in the collection made me think about the patterns, colours and materials associated with these industries and the traditional Kente patterns worn during ‘Friday wear’, where everyone in Ghana is encouraged to wear traditional Ghanaian clothing on Fridays.
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The Usworth Colliery contingent ‘marching-out’ of the village to board the train.
Over 300 coal mines are known to have operated in the Durham coalfield.
© Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Photo: Michael Davidson.
Cap and jacket from the Durham Miners Association Gala, date unknown © Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
House flags of Sunderland Shipping Companies © Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Model of a hull from a tramp steamer, date unknown © Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.
Looking at artworks from the Arts Council Collection I saw some of these colours, patterns and designs repeated, especially in the artworks of Yinka Shonibare, Mawuena Kattah, Joe Tilson and Michael Kidner.
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Joe Tilson, Zikkurat 7, 1967
Oil and acrylic on wood relief, 187 x 295 x 14cm.
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © Joe Tilson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021.
Michael Kidner, Orange, Blue, Pink and Green No.2, 1965
Oil on canvas, 168.9 x 182.9cm.
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist and Flowers, London 2007.
Mawuena Kattah, Me and Mum Looking at the Pots, 2016 .
Watercolour on paper, 51 x 38.5cm.
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © the artist.
Yinka Shonibare CBE, Line Painting, 2003.
Emulsion and acrylic on textile.
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Yinka Shonibare CBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021.
Sitting alongside these symbols of Sunderland’s industries are Ghanaian Adinkra symbols that together represent my dual identity. The River Wear flows though the glass work in the same way my identity flows between Ghana and Sunderland.
About the artist
Anthony Amoako-Attah (b. 1989) is a Ghanaian born contemporary glass artist living and working in Sunderland. Amoako-Attah is currently studying for a PhD in Glass at the University of Sunderland. He also holds an MA in Glass from University of Sunderland and graduated from KNUST, University of Science and Technology, Ghana in Ceramics.
‘I see glass as a host upon which I feed as parasite to bring about my personal and cultural identity’ – Anthony Amoako-Attah.
This new commission has been funded by the James Wilson Fund, thanks to the generous support of Friends of Sunderland Museums (FOSUMS). With additional support via the National Partners Programme, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.