Circle Art Gallery presents Young Guns by African artists Alex Njoroge, Boniface Maina, Churchill Ongere, David Thuku, Denis Mubiru, Dennis Muraguri, Dickens Otieno, Elias Mun’gora, Emmaus Kimani, Ian Mwesiga, Isaiah Mwangi Maina, Joakim Kwaru, Julian Manjahi, Joseph Waweru, Kaloki Nyamai, Leevans Linyera, Lemek Tompoika, Lincoln Mwangi, Michael Musyoka, Mosoti Kepha, Mwini Mutuku, Ngugi Waweru, Paul Njihia, Peteros Ndunde, Sydney Mang’ong’o and Waweru Gichuhi, which is currently ongoing till July 7, 2017.
Young Guns plural noun (informal). Def: People, especially young men, who have lots of energy and talent, and are becoming successful.
This exhibition features new drawing, painting, photography and video from 26 emerging artists in Nairobi. The artists work mostly in collectives and communal art spaces across the city. They are the new guard; politicised and pushing boundaries. Exploring their identities; local and global concerns; war and peace; law and disorder; issues of masculinity and the artists’ role in society.
Following a series of exhibitions at Circle featuring artists from Tanzania and Sudan, it was important to re-focus on Kenya and what is happening in Nairobi right now. In the last five years, the dominance of Kuona Trust as the artists’ studio space, has been challenged by alternative spaces and collectives established by emerging artists or their mentors to offer new working space and workshops.
This exhibition was conceived during a series of studio visits to Wajukuu Art Centre, Brush Tu, Kuona Trust, the GoDown Art Centre, Dust Depo, Masaai Mbili and other private spaces in Nairobi. Though there are still young artists working in more conventional ways, the landscape is changing. Bold fresh voices have begun to make their presence felt by pushing boundaries, organising alternative spaces to reach audiences, experimenting and influencing each other.
Painting and drawing are still the dominant media, largely for economic reasons but these artists are exploring their medium of choice, researching and learning and whilst much of the work is experimental – confident and surprising discoveries are being made.
More controversially, and for the first time at the gallery, this exhibition features all male artists. This did not begin as a conscious intent, it was simply an exploration of new works by young artists, but during the studio visits, all the artists I met were men, the collectives were established by men and the art that I saw in each space was by men and this became relevant. It raises the question as to why there has been this vigorous surge in young male artists, and equally for future investigation to find the hidden female voices? Who are they these Young Guns? Where have they come from? Who are their mentors? What are their concerns, their dreams, and their inspirations?
Alex Njoroge was born in 1988 in Nairobi, and was mentored by the painter Peter Elungat. His experiments with a wide range of materials and have developed a distinctive mixed media approach to painting. Njoroge has completed an artist residency at Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam, and has featured in several exhibitions in Nairobi.
Boniface Maina was born in 1987 in Nanyuki town, Nairobi. He holds a diploma in art and design from YMCA National Training Institute. He has experimented with different mediums and materials and is currently exploring inks. His work has evolved over the years, touching on various themes, striving to capture conflicts in human behaviour. Maina’s work has featured in magazines, art books and news articles locally and internationally. He is a founding partner of Brush Tu Art Studio, and has exhibited nationally and internationally.