Saturday, February 11, 2012
Cyrus Kabiru is one of the most exciting artists to emerge from the burgeoning Nairobi art scene. His recycled materials "C-Stunner" works are witty, humorous, profound but unpretentious. And I am not alone in admiring his work - interest from all over the world has been unprecedented and is growing.
Here is small piece I wrote on my new blog Ed Cross Fine Art
and here is just one of many articles about him, this one from the interesting Makeshift site.
Kabiru had a show in Holland last year at Kuntspodium T Gallery in Tilburg and we are planning exhibitions in the U.K. ,U.S.A and elsewhere.
Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Soly, as many of you will know, is one of Senegal's most successful and prolific artists - he paints with gusto - and I believe some of his work is truly inspired. It has that sense of the mystical and there is a vigour about the work and the man that is exciting.
Here are some very strong works from a series that he has only just produced - they are all 80 x 80cm acrylic and pastel on canvas.
email me quickly if you are interested by them as his work is in demand.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Michael Soi | Hague Express No 5.| 77cm by 65 cm| 2011
Since April 2008 , Nairobi artist, Michael Soi, has been producing a series of paintings entitled Hague Express celebrating the hoped for departure from Kenya of those (to be) indicted by the ICC over their role in the 2007/8 post election violence which claimed 1220 lives, uprooted whole communities and lead Kenya to the brink of civil war. Today (April 5th 2011) Kenya witnessed the fulfillment of Soi's prophetic vision as some of the accused flew out of Nairobi on a KLM flight to Holland - all six accused will soon be at the International Criminal Court. In a poll from the Kenya's Daily Nation published today 61% of those polled approved of these prominent men being hauled out of the country to face justice in Europe. Real justice at home would be better but this development is viewed as a massive step in the battle against what is now viewed by many as the the biggest evil of them all - impunity.
Michael Soi | City in The Sun | 122 x 183cm | 2011
Michael Soi's wish for justice is shared by almost all Kenyans, and he was not alone in producing politically charged work in the early part of 2008 whilst his country teetered on the brink and his countrymen were slaughtered by incentivised mobs. But he was possibly unique in painting his vision of a desirable outcome and faithfully continuing this until - almost miraculously - Messrs Ruto, Kenyatta et al, were forced to head to the Hague (with expensive government lawyers in tow) this week. Soi is understandably proud and pleased that Sr Ocampo himself is the owner of painting No 4 in the series.
Soi is something of an amiable giant -ruled by an irrepressible sense of humour and a satirical but benevolent view of life. He is all artist and no politician - but he like many other Kenyan artists are profoundly concerned about standing up against injustice.
The visual arts in Kenya are still a minority interest - there is no National Gallery, the National Museum leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to contemporary art - but artist groups like Kuona Trust , where Soi has his studio, have flourished and little by little contemporary artists are leaving their mark on the national consciousness through exposure via newspaper reviews probably more than anything else. Kenya's cartoonists - Gado being the most famous - have for years flown the flag of cheeky defiance - even during the dark days of the Moi regime. Soy who is an artist - not a cartoonist - is nevertheless an inheritor of that brave and humorous tradition. His work is Hogarthian in its rollicking satirical portrayal of everyday hypocrisy and farce. His characters engage you in a way that is uniquely Kenyan. And he has developed an economical and powerful visual language that will ensure him an important place in the country's art history. They used to say that all the important art came from West Africa - well that was not true then and it certainly isn't now.
Works from a new series about working women by Michael Soi
For further information about works by Michael Soi contact me by email email@example.com
Ed Cross 4th April 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Given the scarcity of art schools across much of the African continent it is not surprising that many of this continent's finest artists are "self taught", but whilst many artists like Richard Onyango and Jak Katarikawe are musicians (Eduard Saidi Tingatinga from Tanzania started out as a Makonde dancer) it is relatively rare to find a man who invented himself as both painter, poet and pianist. Such a man is the South African (former exile) artist - Charles Sekano. Thirty years of his life was spent in Kenya (from the 60s – 90s) escaping the poison of apartheid. His bold and passionate use of colour - a one man crusade against any kind of colour bar.
An uneasy relationship with publicity, which as his gallerist I have just frustratingly experienced at first hand, has contributed to his being more of an artist's artist, though he is a legend to many with a serious interest in East African art. He has unapologetically existed in the shadows, like so many of the subjects of his paintings. There is frequently a romantic longing within artists for their work to remain purely personal unsullied by the often crass categorisation of the public. I know this from my own work as an artist. Sekano has achieved fame – his work is to be found in New York as well as Nairobi, and in important museum collections in the States but now approaching seventy he remains the rebel – always at his happiest playing his piano in a darkened nightclub.
One of the visitors to my current show of Sekano's work commented "you can tell the works were done for himself alone" and it's true there is no sense of anything else but the artist and his immortalised subject - often a beautiful young woman in the unforgiving urban African night. Sekano's women are not sentimentalised or even romanticised they portray a stubborn range of human emotion from nostalgia to sulkiness, to maternal instinct to narcissism to pride, ambivalence, coyness and sadness - all depicted with cryptic precision.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
This remarkable print by the Kenyan artist, Peterson Kamwathi whom I work with in London, was born of a collaboration with the Kenyan poet Shailja Patel for the South African based project Dialogue Among Civilizations The Art of Human Rights you can read Shailja's poem What we want on this link.
I think Kamwathi's print makes its point with economy and subtlety, demonstrating the strength, beauty and vulnerability of human communities.
There is a very illuminating London article/interview with Kamwathi by Karen Dabrowska which gives a real sense of both the man and his work.
Peterson Kamwathi explaining Kenya through woodcut prints and icons
and we produced a full catalogue of the artist's last show in London with an essay by the SOAS art historian, Elsbeth Court, and an interview with fellow artist Sam Hopkins together with images and details of all the works in the show. Do check it out...
...Matter of Record... Catalogue
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Charles Sekano in the 1980s
Born in Sophiatown, Johannesburg in 1945, Sekano’s youth was cruelly overshadowed by the consequences of apartheid. Sophiatown was destroyed by the authorities and his family forced in to tribally segregated districts within Soweto. This process of dislocation lead to the early death of his father and to his decision to flee South Africa and exile himself from the harsh and violent conditions that he found himself in.
It was in Nairobi in the 1960’s, amid the very real isolation of exile that Sekano forged himself in to both self taught artist and musician – and where he worked as a Jazz pianist in the multiracial, bars and nightclubs of this rough edged African metropolis. Here he lived life in the tradition of a romantic bohemian artist and musician, developing his own version of the three Rs – “the three Ps” – Painting, Poetry and Piano. Like Degas and Toulouse Lautrec before him – living amongst his, mostly female, subjects.
His artistic expression was and is informed by the sense of loss experienced after his family were uprooted and by the resultant severing of family bonds. Women, for Sekano, - those that he immortalises in his works - became his world and his artistic language.
In the words of Sekano in an interview from the 1980s:
“The whole idea is a symbolic relationship. Even the theme “Woman” seems to be remembering my mother, my sisters. I’m trying to live on a higher level with them because I have no communication to show that I am attached to them. They are inseparable from me. There is no border. This Woman theme is my landscape. The only piece of property I own. Woman is the only country I have.”
During his years of exile in Nairobi Sekano waged his own passionate war against the apartheid regime with paintbrush and crayon. The fact that he chose to include Caucasian women in his work was a starting point that surprised some of his peers. But for him colour itself began to symbolise freedom.
“I decided to destroy the apartheid in my thoughts by using colour, by breaking the colour bar. So I just fused everything. I made a red woman, I made a blue woman, a green woman.”
Whilst influences of Picasso and Braque’s Cubism , Toulouse-Lautrec’s and Henri Rousseau’s poster art are clear in his work, Sekano has always rooted himself in the realities of cosmopolitan urban Africa and drawn on Egyptian and San Rock art for inspiration. The nightclubs and bars of Kenya with their beautiful female clientele from diverse cultures across Africa were his subject matter and remain his inspiration. These are “spaces” where opportunism and desire intersect and coexist, often in surprising ways. Each work – be it of a single figure, a couple or a group, contains a narrative – keenly and economically observed. The story of the lure of the bright lights and the promise of escape from poverty and pain underlies many of the tableaux. Sekano is never moralistic, always humanistic – his works celebrate and preserve moments.
In 1997 Charles Sekano returned to a newly liberated South Africa with mixed feelings leaving behind a country he had grown to love, and re-entering a society that had largely forgotten him – the fate of many a returning exile.
Apart from two fine works from the late 1980s the paintings in this exhibition have been produced in the last two years and are part of a new body of work which the artist calls “House of Women”. Sekano has become fascinated with a “building block” mosaic style – where the women who have inspired him all his life are constructed from these geometric shapes referencing the notion of home and strength as well as musical notes.
Charles Sekano has exhibited widely in Kenya, Holland and Germany, Japan and the U.S.A., his most recent show was at the University of Pretoria in 2008. His works are in private collections across the world and in various museums including Volkekunde Museum, Frankfurt, and the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts.
The works in this exhibition are for sale – for further information please contact Ed Cross at Ed Cross Fine Art firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://edcrossfineart.com/ for the complete catalogue and pricelist.
Ed Cross Fine Art thanks Simon Russell for his generous support for this exhibition.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
What the critics say!
"If you are in
go to this show. Edinburgh 23 Atholl Crescent - 5 mins walk from the Book Festival site. It's brilliant".
Author of The Memory of Love, The Devil that Danced on the Water and other titles
"Africa's economy is fast moving out of the doldrums, and a new breed of wealthy would-be art patron is looking around at the bargains on offer.
Bonhams and Philips now have auctions with an
If you can persuade him to part with a 'not for sale' work by Lovemore Kambudzi you won't regret it, for this is sure to become an African classic.
True, prices seem high for relatively unknown artists - and I reckon it would take 15-20,000 before Ed and the owner might change their mind about a work that dominates the exhibition If they won't budge, buy up the remaining Donkey pieces, (by Peterson Kamwathi) with their sharp social comment and bitter humour.
Price? About £1500 each. In a couple of years they will be seen as a steal."
Author of the Fatboy and the Dancing Ladies