Book cover art: Dr. Ablade Glover, Demonstration, 2007, Ghana
Born in Accra, the capital city of Ghana in 1934, Prof. Ablade Glover studied art at universities and colleges in Ghana and the United Kingdom between 1957 and 1965. He became a teacher of art at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. Already while teaching art in Kumasi, Ablade Glover went to the United States for further and more intensive art studies at Kent State and Ohio State Universities which awarded him a doctorate. Today Ablade Glover looks back at a decades-long teaching career in art education culminating in the position of Dean of the College of Art and Head of the Department of Art Education at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi combined with an even more successful career as a gifted visual artist with a large number of solo and group exhibitions both at home and abroad. Especially after retiring from his university office in 1994, Ablade Glover focused on his passion as a painter and started the most productive years of his artistic life, his mature period, with a steady production of highly acclaimed intensely dynamic oil paintings that glow with colourful perspectives on constantly changing urban spaces or natural environments.
Ablade Glover’s work of art is centred on the visual interpretation of lively, dynamic and unstructured situations of human interaction in modern urban life on streets and other public places in an African setting. The best example of Ablade’s interest in crowds of people or groups of houses and objects are his paintings of African market settings which are characterized by an artistic translation of the constantly moving, changing and fleeting colours and shapes which are typical for such environments into artworks which critics describe as being set at the boundary between expression and abstraction.
Interestingly, as Gerard Houghton pointed out, Ablade Glover’s paintings reveal a double aspect, “being at once an abstract epiphany of colour and a detailed rendition of a reality closely observed”. Which of these contradictory aspects, abstraction or realism, prevails depends upon the viewer’s exact distance from the canvas itself. Seen from a close distance, the paintings reveal abstract combinations of seemingly random shapes and colours, but when the viewer moves away from the picture, a point arrives where the inchoate and apparently disorderly array is suddenly transformed into a recognizable depiction of a sea of faces, an assembly of people, a market scene or an urban panorama captured under specific conditions of light and weather. The adaptation of Western painting techniques is refined by Ablade Glover into a most accomplished synthesis of traditional African motifs, colours and sceneries with modern Western modes and procedures of creating art.
Prof. Ablade Glover nowadays is a kind of elder statesman for the contemporary Ghanaian art scene and also an important mentor and patron for younger artists in Ghana. He is the founder of the legendary "Artist Alliance" which traces its roots back to a gallery which Ablade Glover founded when he was a young lecturer in the 1960s. It later re-emerged in different places; the inauguration re-launch of its new location, the Omanye House, a three-storey building overlooking the Atlantic seafront in Ghana, took place in 2008 with a speech by Kofi Annan calling on the younger generation of Ghanaian artists to rise to the challenges laid down for them by the vision of previous generations of artists. "Artist Alliance" today serves both as a gallery and as a meeting and orientation point for the Ghanaian contemporary art scene.
As Ablade Glover moves close to his 80th birthday next year, he is still looking forward to focusing more on his painting. In a recent interview he said: “Why would I stop? Painting for me is part of a healthy life. I walk thousands of kilometers when I work, moving in and then stepping back. After the first layer dries, perhaps two weeks, there’s a second layer, a third.”