8 February 2013

Uganda: Power of the Eye

Artists give scenes and sceneries an unusual look

Realistic paintings of scenes and sceneries of Kampala are now hanging on the walls of Afriart gallery in Kamwokya. The 40 paintings are from collaboration between Ugandan celebrated painter and sculptor, Dr. George Kyeyune and Dutch Painter Henk Jonker.

Dr. Kyeyune's specialty in studying the social scene of Kampala is brought again to the fore in this exhibition when he paints boda-boda cyclists, roadside vendors, men playing board games (Mweso) and many other interesting scenes which make Kampala an interesting city.

With these paintings in oils, one can appreciate the critical eye of the artist. His love for detail and the essence of energy in his work which does attract the viewer's eye and mind.

Like Kyeyune, Henk has a passion for detail while executing his sceneries of Kampala. His work is fascinating in so many ways especially with the way he mixes ink, pastels, oils and scratches in one painting.

"I used not to paint like this. I think now I am more mature on canvas," says the lanky artist who prefers not to be called "an expatriate painting about Kampala".

Henk has been living in Kampala since 2001 with his family. His home is in Lugujja one of the city suburbs in the south western outskirts of Kampala. It's from here that the artist captures one of the most beautiful sceneries of Kampala which is Namirembe hill.

The artist has three paintings dedicated to this particular scenery. Each of these three paintings has an interesting element of studying perspective and light in relation to landscape. The manner in which he skillfully balances the light and shadows in the vegetation and settlements on this hill is eye-catching.

His other paintings are of the city centre which features scenes in downtown Kampala. The artist captures the bustling streets of Kampala filled with road side vendors, city Arcades, Boda boda cyclists and oozing traffic from motor-cars.

Here again, he delves into studying perspective and light thereby creating a visual effect of fantasy and drama on canvas.

Though his subject matter is similar to recent works by neo-impressionist artists Hood Juuko, Ismael Kateregga and David Kigozi , Henk's compositions could arguably take the first lane because of their sheer maturity and skillful discipline clearly observed with the way he applies his colors on canvas.

"His work is layered with color. He does not rush when he's painting. He lets one color dry and then applies the next," says Daudi Karungi the gallerist of Afriart gallery.

These paintings in exhibit speak volumes of the need for artists to observe their subject matter while painting. This is perhaps one element these two artists share and as such puts them on a pedestal.

Furthermore, this exhibition can be interpreted as a documentation of Kampala and its lifestyle. It could be interesting to look at these paintings in the next five years or so, and relate their compositions to the ever- increasing changing face of Kampala.

This exhibition serves as a reminder to the artists to sometimes use their craft to conserve our traditions and beautiful sceneries. Nevertheless, the challenge to have such works preserved in an artistic premise like a Museum prevails. These paintings are at this gallery only for a while, after which their whereabouts could be a mystery.

The exhibition started on 25th January and will last for three weeks.

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