New Art Space in Nyari

As African art be­comes the next big thing, more gal­leries open, writes

Business Daily (Kenya) - - THIS WEEK - Mar­garetta wa Gacheru

Sa­muel Githui has al­ways been one of my favourite Kenyan painters. His panoramic por­traits, of­ten framed as trip­ty­chs, re­veal fas­ci­nat­ing fea­tures of ev­ery­day lives.

Sadly some of his most mem­o­rable paint­ings, like peo­ple on bi­cy­cles car­ry­ing crates of bread or milk, have been copied co­pi­ously by lo­cal artists.

So it’s dif­fi­cult to con­tain my feelings for most of the work in Sa­muel’s cur­rent solo show at Kuona Trust. Paint­ing in ab­strac­tion is not a style I frankly care to as­so­ciate with him.

His works have al­ways had salience for me, even when he only painted don­keys saun­ter­ing along a sandy Lamu beach.

But his ab­stract paint­ings at Kuona leave me cold, so I had best not say more. Thank­fully Sa­muel has sev­eral paint­ings in the show that por­tray the life of Kenyan peo­ple whose ev­ery­day move­ments are in­ter­preted colour­fully by his brush. Mean­while, the art of David Thuku and Longi­nos Nag­ila are an ex­cel­lent choice made by Willem Keve­naar, the Dutch busi­ness con­sul­tant who’s just opened a new art space that he’s named ‘The At­tic.’

“It’s ac­tu­ally an apart­ment, but that word doesn’t slide off your tongue as eas­ily as ‘at­tic’,” says Willem whose up­stairs art cen­tre in Nyari Es­tate on Ibis Cres­cent is not meant to be grand but al­ready looks like a gem of a venue for artists pre­pared, like David and Longi­nos, to share a few choice pieces of their art.

Black and White

These two have much in com­mon as they both work in multi-me­dia us­ing var­i­ous tech­niques. David, who’s one of the founders of the Brush tu Art Col­lec­tive, aban­dons paint­ing en­tirely in this ex­hi­bi­tion. In­stead, he works with pa­per-cuts, sgraf­fito, silk screen and pen and ink.

Longi­nos also works with pa­per­cuts as well as im­age trans­fer­ence with a bit of acrylic paint added for max­i­mum ef­fect. Al­to­gether, their art cre­ates a del­i­cate bal­ance, es­pe­cially as both artists’ works are largely in black and white with colour used spar­ingly and of­ten to ac­cen­tu­ate a par­tic­u­lar point.

Both em­ploy a fair share of sym­bol­ism to in­fuse mean­ing into their art; and both take an ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach even as they each have burn­ing con­cepts on their minds.

Hav­ing been to­gether at the Bu­ruburu In­sti­tute of Fine Art through 2011 (but grad­u­at­ing in 2013), this is their first joint ex­hi­bi­tion since then. It was Willem who in­vited Longi­nos to open The At­tic ac­com­pa­nied by an artist of his choice. That’s how David came in.

Both ad­dress so­cial is­sues in their art. Longi­nos ex­plores the in­ter­sec­tion of con­sumerism, im­mi­gra­tion, mar­ket­ing and money in works like his in­stal­la­tion fea­tur­ing both a ‘paint­ing’ en­ti­tled ‘Vu Com­pra’ and a re­lated wire sculp­ture that the artist calls ‘Manta’.

The terms are slang that’s some­thing like Sheng only it’s a pi­geon lan­guage Longi­nos en­coun­tered among African im­mi­grants liv­ing in Europe and hawk­ing fake brand-name items, like Louis Vuit­ton bags. The au­then­tic lux­ury bags are also in his side of the

show, only this time he’s com­ment­ing on the mar­ket­ing method that ob­jec­ti­fies the mod­els as a means of ma­nip­u­lat­ing hu­man de­sire to ‘buy buy buy’ (as he writes by hand on his art). And his se­ries on ‘Cur­rency’ is also meant to ex­pose the link be­tween money and im­mi­grants who of­ten risk their lives just to make it to Europe.

Longi­nos has spent time over­seas where he has seen these in­ter­con­nec­tions first hand, in­clud­ing im­mi­grants’ strug­gles to stay alive.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, David also ex­plores is­sues re­lated to risk, iden­tity, work and alien­ation, only from a slightly dif­fer­ent an­gle.

Hired help

They are themes seen in both of his un­ti­tled se­ries, one drawn in nine frames, the other silkscreened in ten.

Each se­ries ex­plores the way a woman’s iden­tity is grad­u­ally lost as she moves, frame by frame to­wards pick­ing up a par­cel and be­com­ing hired help in the process.

David then trans­ferred the same images (plus one) onto silk-screen, mak­ing them into one-of-a-kind prints. The tenth one is of just half the woman, sug­gest­ing her iden­tity is al­most lost as she’s now an anony­mous worker.

David’s no­tion of risk is re­vealed in his ‘Empty Seats’ se­ries, all of which con­tain dice and checker boards, and each sug­gest­ing how chance (and the roll of the dice) seems in con­trol of where one’s po­si­tioned (or seated) in life.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.