4 min readFeb 9, 2022


Ghanaian Contemporary artist Isshaq Ismail is interested in breaking the mold of painting by subverting and interrogating the preconceived notion of the idea of beauty within the canon of painting, primarily figurative painting, and challenging the perception of aesthetics.

In this interview we speak to Isshaq about his journey through art, his inspiration and how he developed his style.

When did your journey of Art begin?

ANS: I think from the time I was in my mother’s womb I have been making art lol…on a more serious note I began drawing from an early age like around 7 years old. However, the very early drawings I was making were in the form of Writing ( Arabic Alphabets) because I had started learning the Quran from a Saturday and Sunday school called Makaranta. Moreover. in order to be able to read the Quran you need to learn the Arabic Alphabets by writing and reading.

Furthermore, as I grew older, around 12 years old mark makings of cars, loose figure drawings, scribblings etc were made with pencil, charcoal and crayon on walls and in my drawing book. My professional Art journey pretty much began in my final year in Ghanatta College of Art and Design.

Will you say your environment and where you grew up from play a role in your creativity and finding out about Art?

ANS : I wasn’t fortunate enough, because I grew up in an Environment where Art wasn’t part of the conversation. However I remember looking at geometric and biomorphic forms within my environment as a result it influenced my creativity. I also found out more about art from my early protege I had been visiting to apprentice for.

What has been your inspiration when it comes to your work?

ANS: I am aware and understand. the fabric of life is not perfect. However there are also certain Sociocultural and political realities embedded within this 21st century. Furthermore I am interested in these realities and how they influence us as human beings.

Eg: Moods and emotions of the people in the Society.

How will you describe your style of painting?

ANS: I am lazy so I make Lazy Paintings lol.. However the idea of

“Lazy” is part of my creative process. I describe my style of painting as “Infantile Semi- Abstract”

Your art has seen some transition from 2018 till now. When was that turning point where you decided to draw your figures in the way you do?

ANS : I believe finding ones voice as an Artist is very imperative. My case was quite interesting. I started practicing just After Art School in 2012. I made quite a lot of exploring, investigations and also experimentations with my works till 2016. In 2017 I had a gentrification with my practice to further explore my interest in grotesque images and surfaces because I realized I was getting closer to finding my own voice. Furthermore in 2018 I was back in the Studio full time pushing the boundaries of the works to achieve my voice. Late 2019 I finally found my own Honest and sincere vocabulary till date. Moreover this is not to denounce my earlier works but rather they were a point of departure for my current vocabulary.

Color is key when it comes to your Portraits, what is the reason behind this?

ANS : I come into contact with a lot of wonderful and Amazing hues in the Studio, but I choose arbitrarily to work with the most difficult hues.

As an artist you do not conform to certain rules and guidelines, what inspires you to chart a part for your own self?

ANS : Rules are meant to be broken lol. Furthermore I understand there is a certain kind of Western art history and my own personal History, so it becomes a tremendous tool for me to discard it by unlearning and relearning. Moreover this provides me the luxury and autonomy to manipulate different shapes and forms.

You have exhibited your work since 2013. How have you cultivated a collector base, i.e finding the right target market for your work?

ANS : I don’t cultivate a collector base, I just get the Artwork done, the target market finds me organically.

Before you start working on a project, do you have any creative process or guidelines you go by to help you bring out the creativity in you?

ANS: I am always in a manic state, this whole analogy of high energy, high creativity and high euphoria. This organically allows energy from the universe to flow through my brain, heart and hands onto my Surface ( canvas, paper etc ) leaving behind raw, honest and everlasting iconography.

What has been your most memorable exhibitions and why?

ANS : I am blessed to have been part of some Amazing Exhibitions. However I am looking forward to the most memorable one in the future.

How does your work change the way people see things, especially on the topics you highlight?

ANS : “ Oh my 6 years old child can do this “ I often get that a lot lol. Moreover I am happy people are now taking a closer look at my works and paying critical attention to the Utopian characteristics, even though the images are sometimes going through a dystopia.