Casterline|Goodman Gallery in Aspen is presenting the debut solo exhibition of contemporary Ghanaian painter Seth Fiifi Afful.
The show, titled “Beauty in Unity,” opens today and will run through March 1 at Casterline|Goodman’s primary location, 611 E. Cooper Ave. The exhibition, featuring around 17 paintings by Afful, is a historic moment for the Ghanaian artist and the Aspen gallery: It marks the first time that his work will be shown in the United States.
From Accra, Ghana, the 32-year-old artist has been painting since he was in his youth. Afful said he’s always loved painting and described the act as a hobby he’s aspired to grow all his life.
It wasn’t until last year that Afful started painting professionally. And when his artworks began entering the public sphere, it didn’t take long for the painter to get noticed. He quickly gained traction via his Instagram page, where Afful posted images of his paintings.
Robert Casterline, co-owner and founder of Casterline|Goodman Gallery, happened to come across one of Afful’s Instagram posts showcasing his artwork. Struck by the “beautiful and exciting pop-art imagery,” as Casterline coined it, the gallery owner reached out directly to Afful on the social media platform and the two started an open communication.
“You know, I said, ‘I love your work’ — and I do — and I said, ‘at some point if we could put it together, I’d be very interested in showing your work in Colorado, in Aspen,’” Casterline said. “I think we started the conversation in April of last year, and we were finally able to put our first show in Aspen together.”
Evident in the works now on view at Casterline|Goodman, Afful is known for his uniformly arranged patterns as used in both the background and subjects of his paintings. The result is colorful, vibrant compositions — bold and powerful. And the messaging behind his harmonious strokes also is powerful; the patterns are intended to represent unity among humanity, Afful explained.
“I believe in unity and love among humanity — this is the inspiration that drives me to paint,” Afful said. “I believe in the mutual nature of humanity; though we are all of different complexions, we are all basically of the same flesh. Regardless of our individual physical appearances, our culture, race, religion, sex and gender, we are all united as one by our DNA.”
Afful’s paintings embody this message. He brings to his canvases a deep sense of unity through artistic choices, such as the multi-shaded, floral shapes that compose the skin of his human figures and the consistent green eye color of his subjects, symbolizing “the richness of the world when humanity is united,” the artist said.
Casterline praised Afful for having a deep understanding of society, people and race. He noted that the storytelling behind Afful’s paintings is indeed powerful. Though, for the gallery owner, the storytelling behind a work comes secondary to the actual artwork itself.
“I like beautiful art, you know, I like things that will strike a response,” Casterline said. “And if I like the artwork and I feel it’s unique and that my clients are going to respond to it like I did or do, I think for me, the story takes second lane … it’s just, the art is the first thing.”
Casterline went on to explain how gallery owners often will sell artwork for the story behind it and how sometimes when people are only selling a story, “they forget that they’re still paintings,” he said.
“And that’s the other thing,” Casterline continued, “these are paintings, which is great because a lot of artists now don’t even paint — they’re doing plastic and multimedia and NFTs and digital — I mean, at some point, I’m like, when are people going to stop the noise and start painting again.”
Casterline said he believes his clients and viewers will respond to Afful’s paintings. He noted how he’s already heard from some of his clients expressing interest, and while “sales” is the short answer to what Casterline|Goodman plans to accomplish with this debut exhibition, the gallery owner expressed how Afful starting off his career in Aspen is an “amazing opportunity for all parties involved.”
“If anything, I like to give the local community the opportunity to see international artists,” Casterline said. “We’re always trying to bring a global ideology or painting or artist to our local community, which I think is really good for … the city as a whole.
“But I think for someone like Seth, it’s a great cornerstone, not a stepping stone — I think Aspen is a cornerstone to other things.”
The “Beauty in Unity” show is only the beginning for Afful and his partnership with Casterline|Goodman. The gallery is now representing Afful as one of its primary artists and will be exhibiting another selection of his paintings — Afful is currently working on them — at the EXPO CHICAGO international art fair in April.
Afful expressed a mutual excitement around his partnership with the Aspen gallery.
“It’s a great opportunity for me because I see Aspen as a home of art and creation, and having my work shown there is a great opportunity for me to expose my talents and paintings to the world,” Afful said. “And having Casterline|Goodman representing me, it’s a great opportunity for me.”
With a new wave of exposure, the artist said he hopes his message of unity is reciprocated by audiences at-large, whether from the U.S. or anywhere.
“I hope the impact of my work evokes a feeling of unity,” he said. “I believe that love conquers all and unity is one of our biggest strengths for current and future generations to come.”
Afful’s work will be on display through March 1 at Casterline|Goodman’s signature gallery space, 611 E. Cooper Ave. in Aspen. For more information, visitcasterlinegoodman.com.