The Contemporary Art Society has recently commissioned and acquired two works by Ghanaian-Welsh textile artist Anya Paintsil for Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle. Paintsil creates rugs using wool, yarn, braiding hair and human hair. Rugmaking brings her back to her Welsh roots, paying homage to the creativity which emerged when she was taught by her maternal grandmother. Paintsil noticed the similarities in the adornment and intricacy of West African Hair styles, ultimately weaving this together with her Ghanaian heritage. The subject of Paintsil’s works is often her family, drawn from stories and memories of childhood and the world around her. Paintsil’s works enable the viewer to enter complex debates about gender, domesticity and Afro hair.
I am the Predator, not the Prey I and II are both self-portraits that serve as a reminder to the viewer of the struggles and frustrations that can emerge when beauty standards are placed on women of colour and Black women. In both, the facial features are pronounced, the eyes stare wide and defiantly, the mouths curl up. Against a rust-coloured background and the naked body, the long twists that project from the head and cascade past the border take centre stage. By questioning society and the harm that lies within, the artist invites people to see what reclaiming power and space look like on her terms.
Paintsil’s striking and compelling works immediately captured the eyes of the curators at Tullie House Museum, who saw the connection between her work and the rugs in the collection, creating new conversations about identity, race and gender. The incorporation of Afro textured hair into the rugs intrigued the curators, who have been working with local community groups from various African countries. During the process of this commission the CAS put Paintsil in touch with Tullie House and members of their community to inspire Paintil’s process of making I am the predator, not the Prey.
Anya Paintsil (b.1993, Wrexham, North Wales) lives and works in Chester. Recent solo shows include Glynn Vivian Museum, Swansea (2021) and Somerset House, London (2020). Recent group shows include Christie’s, London (2021); The Whitworth, Manchester (2020) Lychee One, London (2021). Paintsil won the Wakelin Award 2020 at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.