The title of Gideon Appah’s exhibition, Between A Life and Its Dream, refers to the common state between the harshness of lived reality and people’s aspirations for the life they wish they could be living. The promise of the imagined often compensates for the reality, as long as it seems possible. For impoverished people living in the slums of Appah’s native Accra in Ghana, the escape and the promise have more importance than for people living more tolerable lives in better conditions. Appah’s new collection of paintings at his Absa Gallery exhibition evoke the desperation to hold on to the dream of another existence — encapsulated in the title of his work, One day I will be a Millionaire. Not that he depicts a life of riches. He summons the opposite, evoking a gritty urban aesthetic that brings to mind scarred walls of an abandoned or makeshift building that has been occupied time and again. Appah does this with scratched surfaces — lines drawn through paintings to reveal layers of...

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