Revisiting the ideologically charged genres of Western history painting and portraiture, Donkor’s dramatic, large-scale works represent narratives of legendary figures and events from African history, as well as more recent issues associated with civil unrest and police violence. Although the work ensues from extensive research into specific historical episodes, the finished paintings draw attention to their own veracity in depicting the historical truth. The figures from the distant past appear in contemporary settings and dress, while Donkor casts himself in the role of the victims suggesting ambivalence of history and challenging its dominant narratives.
Donkor’s solo exhibition ‘Queens of the Undead’ was organised by Iniva in 2012, showcasing a newly-commissioned series of the same title alongside the artist’s former works. The works explore the possibilities of figurative painting through the filters of history, legend and myth. Each painting is at once a contemporary portrait, an exploration of art history and a celebration of heroic Black women from history. Research texts written by curator and academic Dr David Dibosa and Professor Carol Tulloch were displayed next to the paintings, adding context and exposing hidden histories.
Born in Bournemouth, Donkor is of Ghanaian, Anglo-Jewish and Jamaican family heritage, and as a child lived in Zambia and the English West Country. He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths University and Camberwell College of Arts, earning his PhD in Practice-led Contemporary Fine Art from the Chelsea College of Arts in 2016. He has exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions in the UK and abroad, including the monographic show, ‘Some Clarity of Vision,’ held at the Gallery MOMO in Johannesburg, 2015 and a display of his paintings at the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, 2017.
Donkor lives and works in London.