The Ghana-born, UK-based painter Arthur Timothy draws on his family history to construct vivid vignettes of post-colonial Africa, ranging from moments in the lives of relatives to depictions of Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah and his cabinet – and of top-hatted British delegates from the House of Commons. His architectural and design practice, Timothy Associates, has studios in London and Bath. ‘Arthur Timothy: Grandma’s Hands’, at Gallery 1957 in Accra, is a show of recent paintings based on a collection of his father’s black-and-white photographs, which the artist discovered in a trunk – and is Timothy’s first exhibition in the city of his birth (28 August–1 October).
Where is your studio?
On the lower levels of a townhouse in Bath.
What do you like most about the space?
There are small courtyard gardens to the front and back where I have coffee breaks. The studio opens out directly on to the back garden.
What frustrates you about it?
The height of the doors restricts canvases to less than two metres for the smallest dimension. The largest paintings I have done here are 1.9 x 1.9m, and 1.65 x 2.7m.
Do you work alone?
Yes I paint alone, but I confer with 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.
What does your studio smell like?
Oil paints and turpentine.
What’s the weirdest 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.
Which artistic tool could you least do without?
The studio room does not have a lot of wall space so I depend on large easels for my paintings. I always work on stretched canvases on easels.
What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?
The Red Book of West Africa (1920), by Allister Macmillan; Velázquez: The Complete Works, by José López-Rey; La Pensée Blanche (2020), by Lilian Thuram; The Ghanaian Revolution (1988), by Joseph G. Amamoo; and Filippo Brunelleschi (1981), by Eugenio Battisti.
Do you pin up images of other artists’ works?
No. I like to concentrate 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’re working?
Duval Timothy, Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Burna Boy.
What do you usually wear while you work?
I like smart, traditional clothes, so I tend to dress fairly formally to be in work mode. I often wear a jacket, or even a suit (but not a tie!).
Who’s the most interesting visitor you’ve had to your studio?
The photographer Ric Bower came to shoot me in the studio – he was cool.
Is anything (or anyone) banned?
Flies… in the summer my wife likes to leave all the doors and windows open – I hate flies coming into the studio!
Arthur Timothy: Grandma’s Hands’ is at Gallery 1957, Accra, from 28 August–1 October.
Don’t blame the culture wars for Tate Britain’s disappointing rehang