Damel Carayol, Making Abstract Art from an Afrocentric Perspective
Damel Carayol is a visual artist engaged in portraiture through the media of oil and acrylic paint. Damel was born in the Gambia but his family moved to the UK when he was nine. He seeks to deliver a better understanding of who we are as a ‘oneness, encapsulated in historical account and religious doctrine – to extract Black contributions, Black exaltations, essentially from an Afrocentric perspective’.
Damel – who also goes by the moniker ‘Damel the Artist’ – has coined the term ‘Afstract Figurative’ to describe his work. Here he talks to Bolanle Tajudeen, founder of educational arts platform Black Blossoms, to discuss his art.
The transition coming to live in the UK on his artwork was hard. There was only one other Black boy in his school, so it was hard to adjust from being the majority in his native Gambia to becoming a minority in the UK. At first, it wasn’t the best experience. Damel said he received a lot of verbal abuse. However, being good at art helped elevate him.
“I became quickly known as the person who could paint and draw well. I was also academically gifted, so when I finished my work in class, I would help my classmates. I experimented with different materials. I was not fond of watercolors that much – I preferred pencil and chalk pastels. During my art A-levels, I was introduced to oil paints. I fell in love with it, and that is what I use now for my paintings,” Damel said.
About his ‘Afstract Figurative‘ art concept, Damel said it is about knowing to draw clearly and directly from objects in the real world, mainly of the human form, and is essentially ‘representative’. Abstract art does not seek to portray accurate depictions of visual reality – so it is not representative.
“With ‘Afstract Figurative‘ I wish to abstract realism from an Afrocentric perspective by drawing on materials, shapes, colors, and form that does represent African truism, and so marry the two – figurative and abstract into ‘Afstract figurative‘” he said.
Damel admits that personal experiences shape his artwork. “I want to say something about my life’s experience rather than just creating an aesthetic painting for commercial purposes. I’m driven by injustice and wanting to frame that in my work.”
According to Damel, “There is a common conception that people don’t have a voice, but they do. It is just that those in power are not listening.”
But Damel is not only a painter, but he also does music and fashion. Damel has his own way of making these creative elements intersect. “I deliberately go by the name Damel the Artist. The word ‘artist’ is usually associated with paintings. However, as you mentioned, I am a musician, and that is artistry. I combine music with my poetry. I am really into fashion, too, but there are much more aspects to being an artist; it is about the confidence you exude in your creativity.”
By Bolanle Tajudeen