In the studio with… Arthur Timothy

British painter Arthur Timothy, born in Ghana and based in the UK, draws on his family history to construct living vignettes of postcolonial Africa, ranging from moments in the lives of loved ones to depictions of the first president from Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah and his cabinet – and senior officials – the British delegates to the House of Commons. His architecture and design firm, Timothy Associates, has studios in London and Bath. ‘Arthur Timothy: Grandma’s Hands’, at the 1957 gallery in Accra, is an exhibition of recent paintings based on a collection of black-and-white photographs of his father, which the artist discovered in a trunk – and is the first exhibition of Timothy in the city of his birth (August 28-October 1).

Where is your workshop?
On the lower levels of a townhouse in Bath.

What do you like most about space?
There are small gardens in the front and back yard where I take coffee breaks. The studio opens directly onto the rear garden.

What frustrates you?
The height of the doors limits the canvases to less than two meters for the smallest dimension. The largest paintings I have done here are 1.9 x 1.9m and 1.65 x 2.7m.

Black ocean (2021), Arthur Timothée. Photo: Erica Timothée. Courtesy of the artist and gallery 1957

Do you work alone?
Yes I paint alone, but I talk to my wife Erica, whose office is adjacent to the studio. She has strong opinions so I use her as a sounding board for some ideas.

How does your studio smell?
Oil and turpentine paints.

What’s the strangest object in there?
I keep a large architectural model on the table in the corner. It is a model of a project called “Africa Lake” designed for Accra.

What artistic tool could you least do without?
The studio room doesn’t have a lot of wall space so I depend on large easels for my paintings. I always work on canvases stretched on easels.

What’s the most popular book in your studio?
West Africa’s Red Book (1920), by Allister Macmillan; Velázquez: The Complete Works, by José López-Rey; White Thought (2020), by Lilian Thuram; Ghanaian revolution (1988), by Joseph G. Amamoo; and Philippe Brunelleschi (1981), by Eugenio Battisti.

Do you pin images of other artists’ work?
No. I like to focus on my paintings, so I keep the wall simple. However, we have a lot of artwork elsewhere in the house.

What do you listen to while you work?
Duval Timothy, Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Burna Boy.

Grandma's Hands (2021), Arthur Timothy.

Grandmother’s hands (2021), Arthur Timothée. Photo: Erica Timothée. Courtesy of the artist and gallery 1957

What do you usually wear while you work?
I like smart, traditional clothes, so I tend to dress fairly formal to be in work mode. I often wear a jacket, even a suit (but not a tie!).

Who is the most interesting visitor you have had in your studio?
Photographer Ric Bower came to photograph me in the studio – he was cool.

Is something (or someone) prohibited?
Flies… in the summer my wife likes to leave all windows and doors open – I hate flies that come into the studio!

Arthur Timothy: Grandma’s Hands’ is at Galerie 1957, Accra, from August 28 to October 1.

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