Beatrice is Back
6 days ago, 14:33
Beatrice Wanjiku is an abstract painter whose art speaks volumes. It’s only that hers is a language of colour and movement, shape, shades and hues that reflect her mood of the moment.
Her colours reflect a vocabulary of feelings, which for the longest time have been the colour of the darkest night. They’ve seemed shaped in shadows suggestive of despair, be it with the world or the realm of her own psyche or both.
Yet the darker her works have got in the past few years, the more they’ve appealed to those who see her art as a sort of abstract thermometer measuring the world’s diminished light, warmth and love.
Personally, that period of Beatrice’s paintings left me cold, as cold as I felt her art expressed loss and loneliness and an alienation that apparently is shared by a myriad of souls who feel starved for simple things like hope and faith and genuine affection.
Her art is especially popular in the West where beauty in art is less valued than its emotional power and depth. Beatrice’s works convey intense emotional depth of feeling. They speak to lonely hearts as well as to visionaries who understand that she has tapped into a mood that transcends local likes or dislikes.
She’s an African artist who’s got a global vision and voice that resounds the region’s crying need for retribution and reparations for all that has been stolen from the continent over centuries.
Walter Rodney wrote ‘‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’’ nearly a half century ago, but few African artists have produced works that convey as painful a picture as the Guyanese historian painted in his book. But Beatrice has.
That is, she has done so up until now when her vision seems to have morphed dramatically. In her current exhibition at One Off Gallery in Nairobi, Beatrice reveals the side of herself that I know best, the Bea who is more playful and able to see the irony of living in the light while dwelling on the dark.
The title of her current work is ‘Mourning a Memory’, the irony being that the memory to be mourned is what she is clearly leaving behind, namely that deeply darkened path. What’s even more ironic is that her works in this show seem almost celebratory not mournful.
Just take one of her recent series. It’s called ‘A Fragment of Ourselves Returning’, the emphasis being on ‘returning’, coming back to a feeling of wholeness. What’s more, there’s a lightening in her work, both visually and psychologically.
The black is still there but there’s an intermingling with a soft pastel hue. There is even one in the series that’s flaming red with barely a touch of black. And at the centre of the visage, that pastel hue veritably glows, lighting up the entire figure at the heart of the work.
What’s amazing is that in almost every piece in the exhibition, there seems to be a central light which might represent a soul, or simply a ...
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