The Sun has come.
The mist is gone.
We see in the distance our long way home.

– Maya Angelou

Emma Prempeh’s latest paintings, titled In and Out of Time, deals with similar themes of the late American activist and poet, Maya Angelou’s poem: a meditation on love, conflict, relationships, connections, and experiences forever bonded through time. The large scale canvas works are a reflection of Prempeh’s brief encounters with her Ghanaian heritage, her family, its people, architecture and landscapes created during her residency at ADA in Accra, Ghana.

Prempeh’s paintings play upon the notion of distant memories yet simultaneously draw from immediate and future evocations. Her series of canvases project warm, darkened earthly tones and create wide-ranging spaces, recalling feelings of nostalgia, loss, and intimacy. She enjoys working on life-size canvases and using pigment in ways that transcends surfaces and edges. Partially defined figures and objects float freely through the space they inhabit, almost mystifying forms and shapes.

Prempeh’s constellation of paintings, reflect her lived experience during her one-month residency in Ghana, coming into direct contact with her Paternal heritage for the first time. The residency brought Prempeh closer to her unique, inherited sense of family identity: values, traditions, perhaps to unlock histories and connect with her roots and rebuild the bridge to her present self. The opening lines of Maya Angelou’s poem: The Sun has come. The mist is gone. We see in the distance our long way home, suggests a journey in which her destination is home.

In her work, Prempeh contemplates the notion of ‘home’ to be revisiting her past and heritage, connecting it to present existential narratives and envisioning possible futures. In and out of time, ties with the concept of “Sankofa”, a Bono Adinkra symbol. “Sankofa” is expressed as a mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth. Indicating it is not a taboo to go back and fetch what has been forgotten. The urge to go back and the need to reflect on the now and the past to build a successful or meaningful future, are inherently present within Prempeh’s work, mirroring complex relationships through time.

In and out of time, disrupts the way we think about temporality and quantified narrative experiences, generating subjective progression through moments and scenes. The imitation gold leaf on the canvas surface of the majority of Prempeh’s work signifies the inevitable passing of time and transitory nature of existence. Gradually, the gold leaf deteriorates, and changes colour, and loses its, vibrancy, and aura. The introduction of fabric transforms the surface of the canvas into a three-dimensional state and the sand and other materials into a quasi-installation environment. Prempeh’s work also includes words in the context of self-identification and definition, with excerpts taken from her diary or other literary materials.