Every Brush Tu Open House that I have attended has been a high-energy affair. The one that opened last Sunday was no exception.
The artists’ collective, based in Buru Buru estate in Nairobi, has drawn ambitious young Kenyan artists ever since the group was launched by David Thuku, Boniface Maina and Michael Musyoka in 2013. It didn’t take long for Waweru Gichuhi and Elias Mong’ora, among others, to join them, including sculptors like Boniface Kimani.
The three-day open house presented works by 14 artists including four out of the first five early artists (without David Thuku). All are adventurous, experimenting with new ideas, media or methodologies.
For instance, when Abdul Kiprop first came to Brush Tu, he saw himself as a painter. After attending workshops at the collectives’ studio, he got serious about woodcut printing, which inadvertently led to his learning enough about welding to create a printing press using recycled materials.
“I learned by observation,” says Kiprop, who had worked on presses at Kuona Artists Collective and Wildebeest workshops in Nairobi. After that, he decided Brush Tu needed its own press, so he built one. His first prints coming off the new press are on display at Brush Tu.
Sebawali Sio is a painter who recently discovered she loves working with glass. The busts are first moulded in plaster by hand, followed by cut glass and colour.
Others who are experimenting and evolving artistically are Maina, who’s paying more attention to the chiaroscuro effects of lighting in his art; Lincoln Mwangi who’s experimenting with colour in contrast to his early works, which he drew only in black and white; and Moira Bushkimani and Silas Kwale who create art using junk.
Bushkimani collects everything from dead tree stumps to crushed beer cans, while Silas goes for old butchers’ knives and cutting boards.
Thereafter, they transform their junk into ingenious sculptures. Bushkimani’s works were more conceptual, her sculptures symbolic of either wind or rain or fire.
“I come from a people who are notorious for being meat-eaters and hunters,” Silas said, suggesting that butcheries have been an essential feature in his life.
Emmaus Kimani is the only photographer at the Collective and his images of Lamu suggest the place had a profound impact on his work.