West Africa

Fixing Shadows – Julius and I: Emerging Ghanaian Artist Eric Gyamfi Pays Homage to Julius Eastman

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Image courtesy of Autograph

Eric Gyamfi pays personal homage to African American composer Julius Eastman in his body of work titled ‘Fixing Shadows – Julius and I.’ Curated by Bindi Vora, the work will be on view from 28 April 2023 to 2 September 2023 at Autograph Gallery in London. first UK solo show of the artist’s work

To examine how photography can shift meanings and histories by ‘fixing shadows’ of legacy, absence, and revival, Eric Gyamfi turns the Autograph gallery into a monochromatic cosmos. The gallery walls are covered with thousands of cyanotype prints and in each one Gyamfi blends his own image with a portrait of the transgressive, African American composer Julius Eastman.

Composer, pianist, performer, and performance artist Julius Eastman (1940–1990) is known for his minimalistic music. He was one of the first composers to combine minimalist processes with elements of pop music and use experimental methods of extending and changing music in order to create what he dubbed “organic music. He often titled his compositions with provocative political intent, such as Evil Nigger and Gay Guerrilla. This he did to raise questions about racism, homophobia, and the power of words to provoke. He has received praise after praise following new performances and reissues of his music. In 1976, Eastman said to the Buffalo Evening News, “What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest: Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, and a homosexual to the fullest”. 

Eric Gyamfi is a visual artist and photographer from Ghana. He frequently experiments with the hybrid nature of analog, digital, and chemical processes because of his interest in the photographic medium and its various forms. He is also a fellow at the Photographers’ Master Class (Khartoum, Sudan 2016; Nairobi, Kenya 2017; Johannesburg, South Africa 2018). Gyamfi was a participant in the Nuku Studio Photography Workshops (2016) and World Press Photo West African Master Class (2017), both in Accra. His works have been featured in A Diagnosis of Time; Unlearn What You Have Learned (2021), Ecologies and Politics of the Living (Vienna Biennale 2021), The 11th and 12th Bamako Encounters (2017/2019), and others.

Image courtesy of Autograph

In 2019, Gyamfi won the prestigious Foam Paul Huf Award with ‘Fixing Shadows – Julius and I’. The work was described as “formal and beautiful, personal and political”. This is Gyamfi’s personal tribute to the composer. Each image is unique, with thousands of subtle variations in which their faces merge and resurface in new configurations. It takes begins with two portraits: one of the transgressive American avant-garde composer Julius Eastman and one of the young artist himself. 

When Gyamfi first saw a portrait of Eastman in 2018, he was intrigued by the radical musician, his work, and the life he lived. Interested in how people ‘read’ photographs, Gyamfi collected responses to his and Eastman’s portraits using WhatsApp voice notes, which later influenced the cyanotypes. His practice spans time, mirroring Eastman’s methodologies using one of photography’s earliest processes, allowing for happenstance as each image is repeated and reimagined. Through Gyamfi’s interventions, the two photographs merge and evolve into a series of hybrid images and cyanotypes that span time and space. The body of work shows a constellation in which the photographic image is presented as a powerful yet ambiguous means of storytelling, hovering between autobiography and fiction. 


Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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