Graphic Overtures: An exhibition by five astonishing Kenyan artists
The art bug that has caught up with Nairobi of late is not one of those in-history tales about the likes of the Kenyan second Vice President Joseph Murumbi, and his love for art, more and more people are taking a chunk off the art world.
Unlike like South Africa where the art scene is huge, in Kenya art is still widely considered a luxury, but to a few art lovers it is more of an enjoyment, many in this group feel that they are part of it. This group of people is finding ways of making art relevant to the Kenyan social fabric, hosting exhibitions that speak to the country’s social context and interactions. On Saturday 20, my plot as it were, read ‘art’, with a few cups of coffee, my belly full of a meal of sweet potatoes, I headed to the Art Space art gallery for some nice afternoon time, to free my thoughts and marvel at art. On the easy morning, I strode to the gallery, famous among art buffs in the capital for an exhibition titled Graphic Overtures, and boy did the title fit the exhibition. Anyway, the exhibition brought fourth five top artists, made up of some great designers, and a taste of incredible laser-cut skills, one theme ran through the whole conceptual show; that of technology and art, the artists highlighted some mundane issues in society in the most pragmatic of ways. Using the adage; ‘teach me and I will forget, show me and I will learn’, Brian Omollo, Barbara Muriungi, David Maina, Musa Omusi and Jeff Muthondu, picked various topics to impart visual knowledge on moral and environmental degradation. Installations on the walls were arranged to show the relationship of human beings with nature and their personalities. The brilliant Barbara Muriungi’s art delved deep into material culture and its evolution, she brought to life the Dogon and Ndebele masks. The fascinating art not only showed her deep knowledge of traditional culture, but also her fluency in cultural evolution. On this showcase, she used Laser cut acrylics and digital illustration on paper to send her message home.
A few steps downstairs, Brian Omollo’s rich set and with an obliging face, would more than love to walk the audience through his craft. His sociable aura and willingness to share reveals the person inclined to reading social cues which he reflects in his art. Using Pen, pencil and digital illustration on paper the tall artist looks at another kind of not-so-weird evolution; the corruption of power and technology besides human emancipation from the would-be global corruption. As he shared about his art, Brian takes cue from Lord of the Rings, to explain how power corrupts, his work fills you with the ideals on which power lies that is, the reluctance of leaders to leave power and the impact of long service, draconian rule and greed for power and wealth. However, the charming artist would not leave the art lovers go without showing how positive leadership could be used for reform and societal transformation, as he raised his hand to affirm the message of freedom portrayed on one of his work. To drive the point home, David Maina employed pointillism to unravel the mysteries of love and lust. His art like the other artists’ is subject to careful scrutiny and evaluation for the meaning to be apparent. David, who works at Dust Depo in Nairobi, is a master of his craft, the way he hides messages in his masterpieces creates an illusion of mysteries and wonder which ends with a bang as the viewer comes to terms with the reality of the ingenious display.
Jeff Muthondu shifted the attention from human idiosyncrasies to the beautiful wild, using Laser cut wood, Perspex and steel, the graphic designer, web developer and product designer, Muthondu curves lampshades with inspiration from fauna, which is reminiscent of how the present and the future would be. The present is such that, we don’t see the wild as it used to be. The future, on the other hand, will be well interred in the works of such artists. However, it would be Musa Omusi’s work that would excite quite a number of the audience with its complete enigmatic display of the black and white façade of the modern world. Musa, bore the title ‘prophet of doom’ in this case, using clear illustrations to show what would happen if we don’t learn how to embrace the plastic age and nature. The artist uses two wooden ‘gardens’ suspended on a metal stand to pass his message, one garden is a depiction of earth submerged in black plastic-paper-cover with a solitary plant at the center, being chocked by pollution while the other garden, though with some plastic, has a bright sparkle to it and the flora seem to be peaceful and brilliant in growth. The display depicted how we would exist with the plastic age and still let the environment flourish, or otherwise ignorantly let earth lose the beauty of nature.
As art lovers mingled, joked and asked questions, some of the issues that stood out would be: it is not too late to change the destiny of the endangered species, and, it is a collective responsibility for us to strive to correct the deteriorating nature, which apparently, is on its final walk towards demise. For the greed and corruption, the overtures from the gifted artists graphically told of how we get what we vote for and how we should strive to be free thinkers.