Thursday, 14 March 2019

SIX WOMEN ARTISTS AT POLKA DOT

                                                                                              mary ogembo

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (margaretta.gacheru@gmail.com)
(posted 14 March 2019)

Six Kenyan women artists are just the tip of the iceberg as far as women artists working in Nairobi are concerned. But at least Polka Dot Gallery took time out from their ongoing exhibition of Ugandan artists to give the women a hearing for International Women’s Day and several days beyond.
For this exhibition, simply entitled ‘Women and Art’, only painters were picked, although we also have women sculptors like Maggie Otieno and Chelenge van Rampelberg, printmakers like Taabu Munyoki and Yony Wa-ite  and installation artists like Jackie Karuti and Wambui Kamiru Collymore. Still the six that were selected by the Gallery’s founder, Lara Ray, showed the diversity of styles that women are currently exploring in their art.

                                                                                             Patti Endo

The one thing they all have in common, at least for this show, is their focus on the subject of women. Nonetheless, the women took on a variety of shapes, styles and sentiments. For instance, some seemed fun-loving, fresh and focused on either her hair, her lips or simply her funny face.
Mary Ogembo is a veteran in this regard. She’s been painting happy-faced African women for years. She also has a fascination for ladies’ braids and their hair generally. Having started to paint the African woman in advance of most other female artists, she’s been widely recognized and awarded internationally. She’s had many solo and group shows both at home and abroad, so it’s appropriate for her to be in one meant to highlight ‘Women and Art’.
Joy Maringa has been a make-up artist for a while. It’s only in the last few years that she’s chosen to take her talent to another level, seeing it not solely as a functional skill to make-over plain-looking people into black beauties. Joy recognized that there’s a magic to what she does, which is how she came to create her own art form, calling it ‘lip art’.
                                                                                           Joy Maringa, lip artist

The one art form that the four remaining female artists develop in this show is the nude. Anne Mwiti, who’s the most prolific painter present doesn’t dwell on the subject. Her few nudes are semi-abstract, blended into streams of bright bold shades of blue, then brightened with yellow streaks.
                                                               Anne Mwiti

Sebawali Sio only has one nude in the show. Called ‘Barely Barely’, Seba seems more intent on exploring her women at a more cerebral and psychic level. Most of her female portraits are buried behind layers of paint, suggesting she sees women from a deeper perspective, possibly concealed behind layers of cultural sanctions and stereotypes. Yet their eyes keep peeking out of her frames as if to say ‘I’m here, intent on coming out.”
                                                                                               Sebawali Sio

That’s especially true of the one portrait that Seba says is a ‘selfie’. She’s still buried under colorful streaks, but her visage is clearer as if she too is coming out into her own. That makes sense since she had many careers before realizing her calling was fine art. That caused her to drop the rest and now concentrate of her artistic development.
In contrast, Patti Endo seems very clear about her focus. Her nudes are carefully outlined in curves and lines suggesting she is confident and clear about her minimalist approach to the female form.
                                                                                      Patti Endo

Finally, Nadia Wamunyu, like Patti, only presents nudes in this show. But unlike Patti’s who mostly drafts her models’ back sides in suggestive lines, Nadia mixes both back sides and the ‘full frontals’ of the female form. It’s the frontal poses that stick in one’s mind. Possibly that’s because their poses are more provocative and shameless than all the others in the show. Possibly it’s because they’re also the most intimate and intense portrayal of the female form.
                                                                                         Nadia Wamunyu

Nadia doesn’t give her nudes specific faces, only abstract shadows suggestive of their beauty. But hers, like all the others in this show, present idealized forms of the body. They’re shapes that drives some women to starve themselves so as to achieve that ‘Vogue’ notion of ‘body beautiful’. Indeed, all their nudes are devoid of excess fat; they’re trim and shapely, lean yet curved in all the desirable spots.
                                                                                      Nadia Wamunyu

The one thing that can be said about all six women artists at Polka Dot is that all are proficient painters who are clearly proud of what they do. The only pity is that their show couldn’t have run longer. But at least theirs was a sign that Kenyan women artists are very present and perfectly able to articulate their soul and message through their art.
                                                                         Anne Mwiti


SIX WOMEN ARTISTS AT POLKA DOT (revised)
By Margaretta wa Gacheru (revised/posted 18 March 2019)
Six Kenyan women artists are just the tip of the iceberg as far as women artists working in Nairobi are concerned. But at least Polka Dot Gallery took time out from their ongoing exhibition of Ugandan artists to give the women a hearing for International Women’s Day and several days thereafter.
For this exhibition, simply entitled ‘Women and Art’, only painters were picked, although Kenya also has women sculptors like Maggie Otieno and Chelenge van Rampelberg, printmakers like Taabu Munyoki and Yony Wa-ite and installation artists like Jackie Karuti and Wambui Kamiru Collymore. Still the six that were selected by the Gallery’s founder, Lara Ray, show the diversity of styles that women are currently exploring in their art.
The one thing they all have in common, at least for this show, is their focus on the subject of women. Nonetheless, their work takes on a variety of shapes, styles and sentiments. For instance, some seem fun-loving, fresh and focused on either her woman’s hair, lips or funny face.
Mary Ogembo is a veteran in this regard. She’s been painting happy-faced African women for years. She also has a fascination for ladies’ braids and their hair generally. Having started to paint the African woman in advance of most other female artists, she’s been widely recognized and awarded internationally. She’s had many solo and group shows both at home and abroad, so it’s appropriate for her to be in one meant to highlight ‘Women and Art’.
Joy Maringa has been a make-up artist for a while. It’s only in the last few years that she’s chosen to take her talent to another level, seeing it not solely as a functional skill to make-over plain-looking people into black beauties. Joy recognized that there’s a magic to what she does, which is how she came to create her own art form, calling it ‘lip art’. (Incidentally, Joy’s also got work at The Attic with Wanjohi Maina.)
The one art form that the other four develop in this show is the nude. Anne Mwiti, who’s the most prolific painter present doesn’t dwell on the subject. Her few nudes are semi-abstract, blended into streams of bright bold shades of blue, then brightened with yellow streaks.
Sebawali Sio only has one nude in the exhibition. Called ‘Barely Barely’, Seba seems more intent on exploring her women at a cerebral and psychic level. Most of her female portraits are buried behind layers of paint, suggesting she sees women from a deeper perspective, possibly concealed behind layers of cultural sanctions and stereotypes. Yet their eyes keep peeking out of her frames as if to say ‘I’m here, intent on coming out.” That’s especially true of the one portrait that Seba says is a ‘selfie’. She’s still buried under colorful streaks, but her visage is clearer as if she too is coming out into her own arena. That makes sense since she pursued multiple career paths before realizing her calling is fine art. That caused her to drop the rest and now concentrate of her artistic development.
In contrast, Patti Endo seems very clear about her focus. Her nudes are carefully outlined in curves and lines suggesting she is confident about her minimalist approach to the female form.
Finally, Nadia Wamunyu, like Patti, only presents nudes in this show. But unlike Patti’s who mostly drafts her models’ back sides in suggestive lines, Nadia mixes both back sides and ‘full frontals’ of the female form. It’s the frontal poses that stick in one’s mind. Possibly that’s because they’re more provocative and shameless than others in the show. Possibly it’s because they are also the most intimate and emotionally intense portraits of the female form.
Nadia doesn’t give her nudes specific faces, only abstract shadows suggestive of their beauty. But hers, like the others, present idealized forms of the body. They’re ideals that drive some women to starve themselves so as to achieve that ‘Vogue’ notion of ‘body beautiful’. Indeed, all their nudes are devoid of excess fat. They’re trim and shapely, lean yet curved in all the desirable spots.
The one thing that can be said about all six women artists at Polka Dot is that all are proficient painters who are clearly proud of what they do. Fortunately, their show got extended until March 23rd, which is one more sign that Kenyan women artists are very present and perfectly able to articulate their soul and message through their art.


                                                                 


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