Sunday, 16 June 2019

HIGHLIGHTING THREE BRUSH TU ARTISTS


By Margaretta wa Gacheru (revised 17 June for 20th June 2019)

When Brush Tu Art Studio decided to spread out and move over into the house next door, they also chose to tear down walls (both literally and figuratively) as a way of expanding the studio’s working space.
But even before BTAS doubled their size, they had countless young Kenyan artists coming and wanting to work with this singular art centre in Eastlands filled with some of Nairobi’s most prolific and high-profiled painters, including Michael Musyoka, Boniface Maina and David Thuku, the founding members of the Studio.
Brush tu has always welcomed newcomers to its space. Indeed, since it took off in 2013, it’s been committed to ‘growing’ the Kenyan artists community. The studio itself has grown from being the founding three to including Waweru Gichuhi, Elias Mung’ora and then Emmaus Kimani. After that came Peteros Ndunde, Lincoln Mwangi and Abdul Kipruto (whose three-man exhibition ‘Aftermath of Aftermath’ opened last Saturday), and finally, Bushkimani Moira, Sebawali Sio and Kimani Ngaru.
But ever since 2017 when the Danish embassy assisted BTAS to start a year-long internship program, the interns’ arriving has been virtually non-stop. Currently, they include two Michelle’s, one Wanja, one Wairimu, two Nga’nga’s, Antony and Joe, another Antony Kamau and Melody. All had one or two of their artworks up at the Studio last Saturday along with a few by Emmaus, Sebawali, Bushkimani, Ngaru and Munene Kariuki. There wasn’t one on display by any of the founding artists (apart from one seen by peeking into Musyoka’s space and seeing it was a work in progress.)
But their absence was intentional, according to Waweru who explained this was a day for spotlighting the three resident artists. The ‘veterans’ didn’t want to distract from attention meant to be given to the artworks of Lincoln, Peteros and Abdul. The founders were around but mainly to welcome visitors to their Open Studio.
What was well organized was three immaculate, newly-painted rooms serving as solo spaces for the three. Each having a very different style, Abdul’s room was ‘evolutionary’ in the sense that one could see how his art of printmaking has changed as he had learned new techniques and experimented with them. Prior to workshops at Brush tu with Thom Ogonga and Peterson Kamwathi, his prints were charming, bold and striking. Then came tutorials in woodcut printmaking, and finally screen printing. These skills were manifest in prints that reflected the increased sophistication of the artist who’d readily mastered these techniques and reinvented his style.
Peteros has also expanded his approach to his art although he’s largely stayed true to his intense style of line drawing framed within contours of human forms. What’s interesting is that while many young Kenyan artists are into portraiture, Peteros draws everything except human faces. His drawings are shaped in the form of graceful torsos, elongated limbs and lovely painted toes. Each work is monochromatic, powerfully expressive of his emblematic style.
Lincoln also has an easily identifiable approach to his art. He creates delicate and detailed figures, usually one or two (at most) drawn against a stark grey background which emanates a sad, sobering chill. His works seem to speak of the human condition, a condition where individuals look lonely and a bit lost. In several paintings, the sobriety of the scene is softened by the presence of a single lamb which companion the solitary human being. What comes to mind are the people I know who have a problem interacting with other humans but find solace, comfort and joy with four-legged creatures who they know cannot do them harm.
There’s at least one other room where Peteros and Lincoln share the space with their works complimenting each other well. Otherwise, in random spaces in the rest of BTAS, one will find photography by Emmaus, paintings by Antony Kamau, Sebawali and Joe Ng’ang’a and the sculptures of Kimani Ngaru and Munene Kariithi who created a life-sized man hunkered over his cell phone and covered literally in plastic keyboards from discarded laptops that he managed to find.
And in keeping with Brush tu’s brand of hospitality, there were four other features of the Open Studio that were arranged just for the day: there was a ‘water hole’ where drinks were served, a fresh food café complete with microwave and grill, live music provided by two acoustic guitarists, Louis Kinyua and Garcon Kamau and a garden where visitors came in a steady stream and stuck around into wee hours of the night.






By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 16 June 2019 unrevised)

When Brush Tu Art Studio decided to spread out and move over into the house next door, they also chose to tear down walls (both literally and figuratively) as a way of expanding the studio’s working space.
But even before BTAS doubled their size, they had countless young Kenyan artists coming and wanting to stay. The atmosphere at the studio was alive with kinetic energy, making it feel utterly conducive to creative enterprise.
Brush tu has always been about ‘growing’ the Kenyan artists community. The studio itself has grown from being first David Thuku, Boniface Maina and Michael Musyoka, then Waweru Gichuhi, Elias Mung’ora and shortly thereafter Emmaus Kimani. After that came Peteros Ndunde, Lincoln Mwangi and Abdul Kipruto (whose one-day three-man exhibition ‘Aftermath of Aftermath’ opened last Saturday), and finally, Bushkimani Moira, Sebawali Sio and Kimani Ngaru arrived on the scene.
But ever since 2017 when the Danish embassy assisted Brush tu in starting a year-long internship program, the interns’ arriving has been virtually non-stop. Currently, they include two Michelle’s, one Wanja, the other Wairimu, two Nga’nga’s, Antony and Joe, another Antony who’s also Kamau and Melody. All had one or two of their artworks up at the Studio last Saturday along with a few by Emmaus, Sebawali, Bushkimani, Ngaru and Munene Kariuki. There wasn’t a single one on display by any of the founding artists (apart from one seen by taking a sneak preview into Musyoka’s space and seeing it was a work in progress.)
But their absence was intentional, according to Waweru who explained this was a day for spotlighting the three resident artists. The ‘veterans’ didn’t want to distract from attention meant to be given to the artworks of Lincoln, Peteros and Abdul. The founders were around but mainly to welcome visitors to their Open Studio.
What was well organized was three immaculate, newly-painted rooms serving as solo spaces for the three. Each having a very different style, Abdul’s room was ‘evolutionary’ in the sense that one could see how his art of printmaking has changed as he had learned new techniques and experimented with them. Prior to workshops at Brush tu with Thom Ogonga and Peterson Kamwathi, his prints were charming, bold and striking. Then came tutorials in woodcut printmaking, and finally screen printing. These skills were manifest in prints that reflected the increased sophistication of the artist who’d readily mastered these techniques and reinvented his style.
Peteros has also expanded his approach to his art although he’s largely stayed true to his intense style of line drawing framed within contours of human forms. What’s interesting is that while many young Kenyan artists are into portraiture, Peteros draws everything except human faces. His drawings are shaped in the form of graceful torsos, elongated limbs and lovely painted toes. Each work is monochromatic, powerfully expressive of his emblematic style.
Lincoln also has an easily identifiable approach to his art. He creates delicate and detailed figures, usually one or two (at most) drawn against a stark grey background which emanates a sad, sobering chill. His works seem to speak of the human condition, a condition where individuals look lonely and a bit lost. In several paintings, the sobriety of the scene is softened by the presence of a single lamb which companion the solitary human being. What comes to mind are the people I know who have a problem interacting with other humans but find solace, comfort and joy with four-legged creatures who they know cannot do them harm.
There’s at least one other room where Peteros and Lincoln share the space with their works complimenting each other well. Otherwise, in random spaces in the rest of the art studio, one will find the photography of Emmaus, the paintings of Antony Kamau, Sebawali and Joe Ng’ang’a and the sculptures of Kimani Ngaru and Munene Kariithi who created a life-sized man hunkered over his cell phone and covered literally in plastic keyboards from discarded laptops that he managed to find.
And in keeping with Brush tu’s brand of hospitality, there were four other features of the Open Studio that were arranged just for the day: there was a ‘water hole’ where all sorts of drinks were served, a fresh food café complete with microwave and grill, a garden where visitors could spend the afternoon and hours into the night and live music provided by two acoustic guitarists, Louis Kinyua and Garcon Kamau.


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