Okello's Masques, a New Work in The Loft at One Off Gallery
GALLERY’S EXPANSION OPENS UP NEW LINES OF THOUGHT
By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 14 August 2018)
One Off Gallery has done a brilliant thing by sacrificing its stable and making it over into a second art space just adjacent to its original gallery at The Loft, both of which are located in Carol Lees’ backyard.
Currently, both spaces are full to overflowing with intriguing works of contemporary Kenyan art. The Loft is filled with ‘New Works’ by One Off regulars such as painters Anthony Okello, James Mbuthia, Peter Ngugi, Olivia Pendergast, Peter Elungat, Naomi van Rampelberg who paints exclusively on glass, Ugandan artist Collin Sekajugo and the marvelous metal sculptor Harrison Mburu.
But as lovely as works in the Loft look, it was the show in the Stable that attracted the greatest attention on the opening day of the ‘Line: the basic element’ group exhibition.
In part that had to do with the show having been curated by two young Kenyan artists, Thom Ogonga and Jonathan Solanke Frazier who were well-equipped to call fellow artists who they knew had an affinity for painting and drawing using their ‘basic element’, the line.
In part it was because many friends of One Off also knew they could anticipate the unexpected that day. So expectations had to run high.
Carol Lees had given Thom and Jonathan a free hand to pick and choose whomever they wished to showcase. Not that their selection of eleven Kenyan artists was a startling surprise. But it was exciting to find that most of those chosen to be in the Line show had never exhibited at One Off before.
In fact, only Florence Wangui and Mercy Kagia had showed their artworks at One Off before. Florence’s animated chickens, drawn in charcoal, always have personalities of their own. And the ones she drew for the ‘Line’ exhibition were no exception.
Mercy’s previous works had been in the Gallery’s second ‘Nudes’ show which was held last year, and they’d attracted broad interest (and some controversy), in part because her paintings were the only ones in the show that featured men.
In any case, the rest of the artists feature in the Stable were Kenyans making premier appearances at One Off.
They included Agnes Waruguru, David Thuku, Janice Iche, Jonathan Solanke, Longinos Nagila, Ndeithi Kariuki, Patti Endo, Sebawali Sio and Wanjohi Maina.
It was an eclectic group of artists whose works happened to harmonize beautifully as one will find when you get to One Off and wander from one white-walled room to the next.
In fact, the artworks in the Loft have an equally harmonious effect, only in different hues, textures and techniques. For instance, there are more oil paintings in the original gallery, more familiar imagery such as Okello’s monumental masks, Ngugi’s curious street people and Olivia’s elegant auburn tree-scape.
Meanwhile, the works in the Stable are full of surprises. For instances, Longinos’s 3-D optical illusory art is unlike anything we’ve seen him create before. Ndeithi’s metallic, musical fingers are also exceptional silhouettes of sound. And Agnes’s cotton tapestry is just as refreshing as (albeit quite different from) the textile art of the Canadian artist, Lisa Milroy who’d shown at One Off several months before.
So there’s a lot to see at One Off this month. The artworks of both the gallery ‘regulars’ and the newcomers to the Rosslyn gallery are on hand to view. In all, there’s tremendous variety to see, so August is a good time to get to the Gallery.
Incidentally, in the coming weeks we can look forward to Carol Lees setting up another art outpost in the Rosslyn Riviera Mall, just down the road from One Off.
Moira, Janice, Naitiemu and Nadia at One Off