“Playing to the Gallery” is an exhibition at Afriart gallery curated by Michelle Mlati, and before I get to talking about the artists and the work I want to talk about the curators at Afriart. The gallery and it’s curators take time to create a space that visually delights, the curator’s choices make sure that each artists work is right where it’s supposed to be. When you walk in the gallery Sungi Mlengeya’s works hit you with the strong black and white contrast rich aesthetic, and as your eyes wander you’d see Stacey Gillian’s paintings still playing on the contrast aesthetic but with more color, and Stacey brings you to Spire’s cartoon work and Khalid Abdel Rahman’s Untitled works, before you get to the second part of the exhibition the wall is still there and on it still in subdued hues is Amna Elhassan and Abushariaa Ahmed. As soon as you cross the “wall” it’s an explosion of color, John Baptist Ssekubulwa’s work is a visual delight, Arim Andrew also serves up lots of color and satisfying detail, then we come to Letaru Dralega who creates a familiar picture of earth with rich texture and color, the effect is surreal, then you get to Eria Nsubuga’s video installation and Collin Sekajugo’s finally ending up at Sanaa Gateja’s incredible beadwork.
Putting work like this from artists that are drastically different in style and form is no easy feat at all and to present it in a visually coherent manner is pure magic, I salute Mlati for this, and although the exhibition statement was a bit too meta for me the concept came through, Stacey Gillian known for her photography came through with paintings done during this lockdown and everyone (I’m sure I can speak for everyone who attended and will attend) who saw them will see that Stacey is equally good at the paint medium. I’m also glad Letaru Dralega came back I had missed the chance to interact with her work in “Collage Broadly Defined” her work is so rich with color and texture and she weaves stories using materials her most recurrent is gold, it’s a visual treat. I need to get time with her to talk about her practice.
Ssekubulwa and Arim’s work is excellent as ever and since I had seen Ssekubulwa’s “Brain Damage” I was not seeing entirely new work but it was exciting though he was still in the same series but I just can’t get enough of the color and attention to detail.
I have not included pictures of some works because what kind of person would I be if I transferred the entire exhibition here, for some works you’ll have to see them yourself my pictures can not do justice to Sanaa Gateja’s work, my tiny camera phone just can’t handle, please see the show if it’s still on. (You’ll see the images on Afriart’s socials anyway)
Khalid Abdel Rahman, Abushariaa Ahmed and Amna Elhassan are new names to me, I’m still interacting with their work, I’ll talk about it soon. Michelle Mlati served a wonderful show and the art work in the show came from the dedication and skill of artists in the face of a devastating pandemic, thanks to everyone who made this possible.