In an effort to create awareness of the environment around us and the need to be more appreciative of the surroundings, two artists — Gemini Vaghela and Dickson Kaloki — displayed their most recent work at Mediterraneo Restaurant at 9 West in Westlands, Nairobi.
The exhibition dubbed Living Earth was a combination of the two artists' styles to feature a compelling display of the earth and its elements. According to Vaghela, the exhibition was a portrayal of people and structures they live in and how they need to sustain the world. “Without the earth the people will not survive, so this is an awareness to make people stop taking the earth for granted,” she says.
Why living Earth? Vaghela states that she wished to work with Kaloki, one of the best artists in the country, and since their styles are quite different, they had too look for a meeting point. The different styles are quite visible from the artworks on display.
Kaloki, known for his work with charcoal and acrylic on canvas, is inspired by lives in the slum, and tries to capture the lifestyle and mood of the slum at different times of day. In The Morning Before, Kaloki captures the slum in the morning, using charcoal to create the silhouettes of the houses in the light of the sun. In Mulika Mwizi, Kaloki focused on highlighting a central part of the slum, with other features pushed to the background, to create the illusion of lighting a torch to a specific part of the painting, thus the name. The painting features a section of the slum with a river cutting through the different structures. With the darkening of the main structures in the foreground, and using lighter shades in the middle, the viewer gets the impression that they are peeping from a hidden location.
In celebrating the earth, there is need to celebrate the people in it, and that's why there were portraits in the exhibition. In 'Surprise Me,' Kaloki uses a mixture of colours to create a portrait of a woman smiling. One thing that stands out in the painting is the precision of the painter in blending the colours to create an impressive image. The same style is also noted in Talk to Me and Monica.
One painting that stands out is Kazi ya Punda by Kaloki, as it is the only image in print. Just as the name suggests, the painting is the portrayal of the donkey as the beast of burden, with a man leading it through the slum, indicated by the roofs and walls of homes behind the man and the donkey.
Vaghela's abstract paintings indicate her passion in nature and its beauty. She works with a variety of mediums, and uses texture to enhance the look of each painting. In Tribal Wave, Vaghela pays homage to the tribes. In the painting, there's a wave that looks like a person giving the viewer a hug. At the edges of the painting, there are tribal markings and patterns to show the importance of the African culture, and how the wave is taking over the world.
The essence of living and connection to earth was a subject presented in Tree of life, which Vaghela says was the representation of how we 'grow from nothing and to fade out in the world.' The different stages of life is represented with different colours, used on different parts of the tree, from the roots up to the leaves.
In Earth, Vaghela opts to blend the different elements of the earth to create a cool and calm abstract. She uses both bright and dark colours to represent these elements, with yellow as a representing the sun, brown the earth and green the vegetation. The painting is also in two sections, with the upper section featuring the bright colours, and the lower, the darker hues of the same colours. According to her, the painting is “a representation of the opposites in the world: the day and night, the good and the bad.” The same is portrayed in the painting Colours of the Earth, where she uses colours of the rainbow to highlight the happiness that surrounds the earth, and which we should embrace.
In Trails Of Heat, Vaghela decided to focus on the desert, and portray the tracks of heat on the sand. With a purple background, the painting features textured strips of paint on different locations to indicate the heat trails. In the Firefly in the Sunset, Vaghela portrays the fireflies-colorful dots in their glory against the setting sun against the red background.
One thing that stands out in the paintings is that the artists show their passion for the earth, as well as the attention to detail, which indicates the planning on each piece. With Earth Day celebrated on April 22, the exhibition is timely as it stamps the call for commitment to the protection and appreciation of the earth and the people in it.
Gemini Veghela graduated in Interactive Multimedia Technologies and completed a Diploma in Photography, and she now appreciates the unique quality of analogue art compared to digital works. Exhibiting in Australia, where she lived for 10 years gave her a stepping stone to start her journey in the visual arts industry. She is also a curator, who likes to analyse each piece to understand each piece.
Kaloki's journey began in the late 90s and he joined the GoDown Arts centre in 2005. After graduating in Interior design, he is now a resident artist at Kuona Trust and has had exhibitions in Spain, Denmark and Germany.
Living Earth runs until May 14, 2014.
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