Thursday 5 April 2012

Looking and Listening: Contemporary Rwandan Art

Sometimes I will look for art and sometimes art will find me. Yesterday was the former (yes I know, I need to write it up) and today was the latter. I was going to my usual lunch place and the small gallery nearby  caught my eye. So I went in to investigate.

The name of the show is ‘Rwanda: A group show by 8contemporary Rwandan artists’ at the Charlie Dutton Gallery. According to the notes, this is the first occasion that Rwandan art has been shown in the UK. They continue, saying that 'in the context of the pressures that the country has faced, the formal teaching of visual art has taken a back seat so it is extraordinary that artists are working and practising to produce art that challenges their understood conventions, represents their own expression and that of their countrymen’.

A long winded way of saying that heartfelt, honest art flourishes regardless of schools. 

A number of works immediately grabbed me and others made me think. The first was Innocent Nkuruinziza’s Untitled (Stripes and Circles) which is a striking piece, with paint thickly rendered in bright exuberant colours in a pattern. It made my eyes dance with the rhythm of the pattern and is just the thing for warming up a cold grey day.

However it was Nkuruinziza’s other paintings that really captured me; Untitled (Dots) and Untitled (Dots Cockerel). The coloured dots I think resembled sweet Hundreds and Thousands and made me think of ice creams and desserts. Both of these pieces were playful, interesting and actually very beautiful. Given the preoccupation with dots by other contemporary artists, Damien Hirst’s assistants creating spots for example, these paintings have an extra dimension in that they are actually unique and imaginative. Perhaps more in the style of Yayoi Kusama's fabulously endless dots?

The other pairing was Tony Cyizanye’s Crowd 1 and Crowd 2 which captivated with its chaotic repetition of colours, representing a churning mass of people. Depending on your disposition this could be the busy moving mass of a market place or perhaps something darker. For me the brightness suggests only positives.

I found the smaller naïve art harder to engage with, which probably says more about me and my taste rather than anything inherently wrong with it. Munezero’s House and Wedding Dance have a darkness in them that I find troubling. There is a menacing quality about the impressionistic confrontational figure outside his pink and brown house - a direct effect of a community which has experienced civil war? 

The naïve Road by Amini Muhire in particular has a fleeting quality; a shouting face by the roadside which the artist has captured quickly as he drove past. What was the figure saying? Why was she running along side the vehicle? Who was her pale companion? It’s a startling, unsettling piece which cannot answer any questions.

The piece which made me think most of all was Bruce Niyonkuru’s Hospital; full beds crammed close together, reddish pink snakelike drips and an anxious visitor clutching a child sat next to the bed in the centre of the painting. The lack of precision and perspective gives the picture a noisy chaos, in contrast to the peaceful faces of the patients. Overall, another interesting and thought provoking picture.

I’m glad I ignored the hunger pangs and went in to investigate these unusual paintings. It provided an excursion into another world and opened my eyes to artists working in less than ideal conditions, shouting their brilliant ideas out into the world. I’m glad I was there to listen.

Further information on some of the artists here.

No comments:

Post a Comment