Artist pulled in many directions still inspired to reflect in paint

Thursday June 4 2020

'Coronavirus Settling in Kenya' by Leena Shah.

'Coronavirus Settling in Kenya' by Leena Shah. PHOTO | KARI MUTU 

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Kenyan artist Leena Shah has been working at her home studio more recently, but with her family also at home due to restriction measures, she finds that she is being pulled in many directions.

“It’s tough to start my paintings so I do it in bits,” says Leena, who also laments about the excessive coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her recent work covers a range of topics including nature, people, spirituality and, of course, the pandemic. Her garden offers Leena positivity during these unusual times and it features in a number of her mixed media work.

In the illustration Our Garden, the entire canvas is filled with lush green, yellow and blue colours. Leaves and flowers float through the piece and you feel as though you are immersed in verdant shrubbery. Another major theme is spirituality and good fortune.

A semi-abstract painting in bold, rich colours shows Ganesha, a Hindu god of good luck who is half human and half animal. In it, a blue elephant’s head is looking down at the distorted blue face of a person to depict the deity.

She expresses her instinct or "third eye" in an earth coloured painting called The Third Eye where a brown woman holds up the splayed fingers of her hands, while one large eye covers her entire face and she looks as though she has just had an epiphany.


The abstract illustration called Staying Safe (Hidden) is a sombre look at social seclusion. The piece expresses a sense of sadness due to the emotional difficulty of social distancing. Then there is a Coronavirus Settling in Kenya, painted in deep blues and greens. The woman in it seems tranquil yet oblivious to any danger around her.