• The collection might be better termed a conversation, or a series of conversations
Geraldine Robarts is an 82-year-old Kenyan artist, whose studios in Karen hold a collection of more than 2,000 paintings. She is prodigious and brilliant, and respected as one of Kenya’s most senior and seasoned artists. She is also a profound thinker who reads widely and keeps abreast of world news and views. For anyone who has visited her studios and enjoyed tea and date cake on her veranda, Geraldine is an engaging conversationalist and never short of wisdom to share.
The World in Transition is an eclectic collection of some of Geraldine’s latest paintings in oil on canvas. The collection might be better termed a conversation, or a series of conversations. Its broad range of topics include gender equality, racial unity, marriage, hope for the younger generations… even the impact of Covid.
Perhaps one of the most enticing paintings, or conversation pieces, is called Letters. This painting is structured as a framework that also manages to exude movement and energy. Its vibrant colours – mostly reds, yellows and blues – are confidant and seem to pulse across the canvas, evoking imagery of heartbeats, roaring fires, waves crashing or rivers of light.
This is a painting that seems to say that fire and water are not dichotomous but can be exist side by side. Geraldine says it is a tribute to the letters of the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of the world. Geraldine heard about the Baha’i Faith when she was an art student at university in the 1960s, and she has been an active member of the worldwide Baha’i community ever since. She credits the letters of the international governing council of the Baha’is as being one of her sources of inspiration and insight.
Those letters offer insightful and well-informed analysis of current issues, as well as encouraging and practical guidance to Baha’is – whether as individuals, communities or institutions – on how to make a difference in the world. Baha’is are not blind to the pain and suffering in the world, caused by the disintegration of so many of our time-honoured traditions, cultures and institutions, whether social, political or religious. However, they focus their efforts on building a positive and hopeful future, guided by a deep-seated belief in a future where “the earth is one country and mankind its citizens (-Baha’u’llah)”.
The painting, Hope After Covid, is also structured as a grid, this time with a distinctly oriental colour scheme in black, gold and with accents of red. It is certainly a conversation piece, raising more questions than answers. It is thought-provoking and manages to be both ominous and hopeful.
Geraldine’s extraordinary range and virtuoso as an artist is obvious when one compares this to the work that bears the title of the exhibition, The World in Transition. Here is the more recognisable style of Geraldine’s artistic brand: the painterly genius of colours and textures, the free-form abstract expressionism, the masterful techniques of working in thick impasto to bring life and light to the canvas, the layers of painting matching the layers of thought and feeling, and the spirit of seemingly endless originality.
My personal favourite is, Unity, a 4ft x 4ft acrylic on canvas that exudes energy, personality and sheer genius. Who are these three figures, so wrapped in wonder? If you visit the exhibition, do ask Geraldine. Almost certainly, one of them is you.
Geraldine Robarts’ ‘The world in transition’ paintings will be on display at the Exhibition Hall, Village Market, from Friday October 8 at 6pm to October 14. The exhibition will be opened by Lord Sebastian Coe. Covid precautions in place, please wear a mask.