Art
'Tension' by Evans Mbugua

This Kenyan Artist Creates Stirring "Cosmic Pop Art" Inspired By Contemporary Dance

We speak to Evans Mbugua's about the inspiration behind his striking collections "Identities," and 'Dialogue."

For his first solo show in the UK, Evans Mbugua has created what he's described as “the first visual contemporary dance exhibition," as he carefully puts it.

To achieve the high ambition, the Kenyan-born artist closely observed a pair of male and female dancers for 18 months, in different studios and venues around Paris, France, where he's based.


Mbugua, 38, currently has two exhibitions—“Dialogue" at Gallery of African Art in London and “Identities" at Out of Africa Gallery in the Spanish Pyrenees—both of which opened in December 2017.

'Rise' by Evans Mbugua

2018 is proving to be an equally busy year for the graduate of print design, with a show planned for February at Cape Town Art Fair in South Africa and another in April at Art Paris Fair, where he will be represented by ArtCo Gallery from Germany.

The focus of “Identities" is on individuality while “Dialogue" is the singular story of a pair of dancers in commune. Both set of works are rendered in the most striking fashion using print, photo paper and acrylic glass, commonly used as a durable alternative to glass.

Glass does not typically inspire warmth or the fluidity of dance, even the most stodgy type. Did he not worry that the perceived lack would be an obstacle? “I'm painting humanity. I want to show the beautiful side of humanity," he says. “That's what my art is about. At the same time I agree with you to that glass normally should be cold."

He explains further: “I'm coming from the perspective of stained glass. The transparency and light you'll find on old buildings and churches creates a very interesting atmosphere in architecture. So glass for me is not cold, it's actually colour, it's actually atmosphere."

'Legato' by Evans Mbugua

Mbugua has given to glass the big image overhaul that it would need in my case to inspire warmth, but will not share the finer details of how he has achieved this, being trade secrets.

The works in “Dialogue" take up both floors at GAFRA where 12 life size paintings occupy the ground floor. Downstairs, an entire wall is covered with paper print before which visitors were encouraged to take photos while wearing sunglasses specially designed by the artist. On another wall is a screen showing a short video of one of the dancers, Wanjiru Kamuyu, doing elegant hand and feet work, as though warming up at practice but if over interrupted, would seem like poetic inspirations for the works on display.

On the wall opposite this screen are two sets of 10, small size works (15.5 by 15.5cm) which he's titled “Mouthpieces," and are just that—images of the mouth with the lips highlighted—and are made from, or perhaps cut from, other works combining perspex and photo paper, and imbued with new meaning. “In essence, it is a dialogue between my work and between my subjects," he tells me via Whatsapp messages after his return to Paris.

From the 'Dialogue' series by Evans Mbugua.

The most imposing work on the ground floor is a two-suite piece made from a single image of the male dancer, Smaïl Kanouté, in elegant poise. Both halves—“Beat" and “Rhythm"—could be sold separately are meant to be inspired by the fracture nature of his origins and life today because “part of me is still in Kenya, part of me is still in Paris, part of me today is in London, part of me was New York when I was there the other day, and I love Spain. I think it's a metaphor for just how we are. We could be everywhere."

This one is a hard sell considering the multiplicity he has described outnumbers the simple binary of “Beat" and “Rhythm." But this could be excused as it was well into the evening and after being barraged by questions from visitors about himself and his technique.

'Flow' by Evans Mbugua

Visitors perceptions of Mbugua's distinct works in past exhibitions continue to amuse the artist. It has been described as “Cosmic Pop Art," a coinage which pleases the artist while other assume they are the works of an American pop artist which doesn't bother him. But “when they see me they say you're making African prints but I'm not making African prints. In France it's 'you're doing the wax.' I am not doing the wax," he tells me, laughing at the lazy interpretations and perhaps his own frustration with them, before adding, “I'm sorry I'm creating a universal language using pictograms. It's a sign that everyone uses, just look a bit more."

'Chick In Blue' by Evans Mbugua

popular

Black Twitter's Reactions To Meghan Markle & Prince Harry's #RoyalBaby Announcement Are Too Funny

Congrats are in order, but first to Black Twitter for continuing to hold it down with the jokes.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, have been the internet's brief moment of mindless, happy news since they became engaged, then married earlier this year.

Kensington Palace took to Twitter again this morning to announce that the couple will be expecting their first bundle of joy next spring.

Since the LA-native and former star of Suits made her way into the royal family, Black Twitter has had no shame sharing their hilarious thoughts and commentary, and the pregnancy announcement has been no different.

Have a laugh and take a look at some of our favorite reactions from them below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

People Aren't Happy About Kanye West Visiting Uganda, Comparing Himself to Fela

The rapper is being called out for visiting President Museveni after his treatment of Bobi Wine. Seun Kuti also reacted saying, "the spirit of Fela Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West."

By now you've heard that Kanye West delayed the release of his new album, Yandhi, to finish recording in "what is known as Africa."

"He wants to draw inspiration from the earth there," TMZ quoted Kanye as saying two weeks ago. "I felt this energy when I was in Chicago," Kanye mentioned then, "I felt the roots. But we have to go to what is known as Africa. I just need to go, to find out what it's really called, and just grab the soil."

Well Kanye has now made it over to Africa, more specifically, Uganda. His trip follows a now infamous White House meeting in which he hugged Donald Trump saying "I love this guy right here."

Kanye was first shown in a live video from Uganda dancing to Mystro and Wizkid's "Immediately." The clip was shot and posted by Bankulli, who used to work with D'banj when he was signed to GOOD Music and now works with Mystro.

Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian also met with Ugandan President Museveni. The President said he and the rapper held "fruitful discussions" about promoting tourism and arts.

Kanye gifted President Museveni—a man who is accused internationally of overseeing the torture and unjust imprisonment of musician and opposition politician Bobi Wine—a pair of white sneakers.

Museveni has called the reports of torture against Bobi Wine "fake news."

Apart from that, Kanye has been posting several periscopes of his rants. Many of them are titled "Mind Control" and the longest of them has him declaring himself to be the "the best living recording artist."

In that same video, Kanye says he has the spirits of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur "flowing through him." Billboard has the full transcript if you really feel like your mind needs that.

Naturally, given his current embracement of Donald Trump and, in association, far right politics, many people aren't happy with Kanye visiting Uganda (or anywhere on the African continent) and meeting with Museveni.

Seun Kuti replied on Instagram writing, "Erm erm on behalf of the Kuti family , I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West. Ziggy Marley over to you. 🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂 Ebro come get ur boi before I #getthesax"

See some reactions below.





popular

Family Demands Justice In Killing of Unarmed Nigerian-American Man Chinedu Valentine Okobi

Black lives matter.

Chinedu Valentine Okobi, a 36-year-old Nigerian-American man died on Wednesday, October 5 after being tasered by police officers in Northern California, the LA Times reports. Okobi was unarmed at the time of his killing.

Okobi, who suffered from mental illness—according to his sister, Ebele Okobi, Facebook's Head of Public Policy, Africawas reportedly running in and out of traffic in Millbrae, an area south of San Francisco, when he got into a "struggle" with an officer who approached him, says San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Four other cops were called in, and one shot a Taser gun at Okobi as he was being taken into custody. Okobi was later taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.