About the exhibition
Beatrice is a painter. In her works, the possibilities inherent in the medium of painting are obvious. The visual quality of her artworks is comprised of a multitude of very diverse marks. Dripping, stark masking, deep layering, fluid-like gradations, under-drawings, stippling; these, and many more, are all marks and techniques that she wields in the making of her paintings. In her paintings, the seeable qualities of this medium are explicitly revealed; and maybe even celebrated. In her hand, these marks create an impression that can be likened to the swirls in the rivers that break the flow of the currents, trapping and churning the viewer- even if only for a time. And yet in all this frenzy the work is still able to channel us towards encounters within our individual states.
A precarious awareness now challenges the values that have, in different forms and times steered global societal structures. Our humanity now has to come face to face with the fall out resulting from fragmented systems. This is happening on all fronts of the Social agitation spectrum; MeTooMovement, BlackLivesMatter, UngaRevolution, StopTheseThieves, ArabSpring, BorderFences, Occupy. While this is one of the ways of confronting the dysfunctionality rooted in our Social structures, the intensity of these times is also giving rise to a climate of over-legislation, militarization and intolerance. Artists are not immune to the times.
The gaze of Beatrice’s work is directed inwards, yet, it also continues on towards the expression of our individual resistance; projecting a semblance of breaking out from the exoskeleton of collective formatting and expectations. Looking at Beatrice’s painting makes me wonder then whether the only spaces left for uninhibited expression in this age might be our inner-scapes.
One of the phrases that continually comes to mind whenever I look at her paintings is that “There is more than meets the eye”. While that may be true for most works in creative expression, I feel that encountering Beatrice’s paintings becomes an act of looking into the self; baring self, isolated self or maybe even self-looking back. There is a constant oscillation of identities expressed in these paintings, that triggers a state of uneasiness between I - the viewer and Beatrice’s work. As Beatrice puts it “The act of disentangling is an act of re-invention.” And there is some form of brutality involved. The work then has the potential to become an expression of the contortions one has to adopt during this process.
This is embodied in one of the paintings that has stood out for me in this exhibition “resume your flesh and form v”. In this particular painting, two distinct forms are, to some degree, of half-way enmeshed together. One of the forms is darker and of a denser constitution whereas the other is white - almost phantom-like. There is a pronounced expression of a relationship between them. An association that seems layered under the weight that runs through most human relationships, maybe even those of a more intimate nature. So far, I have not worked out if these forms are engaged in the bond of coupling or some form of violent separation. The ghostly figure in this painting is a departure from the dense screaming or gap jawed form that has periodically featured in Beatrices’ past body of paintings. The torso has for some time been the landscape by which she frames and presents these confrontations.
In a recent conversation, Beatrice highlighted that she does not perceive the parameters of stretched canvas as being a prison for her subjects but rather as the window or viewfinder through which we gain a glimpse into a fraction of her subjects’ existence. Fundamentally we get acquainted with only that which is revealed by the artist. The rest is either left for another day, to our imagination or maybe it holds no relevance at that respective time. What more can I ask for?
One of the challenges in writing this short text is the sense that my thoughts and perspectives are informed by the filters of all the times that I looked at and engaged with her work over the course of that time. I find it difficult to compartmentalize each body of work to its period because the experience of looking at a specific painting or exhibition is also informed all the other artworks that I have seen.
More on Beatrice Wanjiku
Preview of Works
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Exhibition openings are usually on the last Saturday of every month, excluding December. The gallery remains open on Sundays allowing anyone who missed the opening to catch the exhibition the next day. Do join our mailing list so we can send you an invitation.