Fine lines make an expressive portrait

Wednesday May 20 2020

From the 'Identity series' by Husna Nyathira.

From the 'Identity series' by Husna Nyathira. PHOTO | KARI MUTU 

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Due to Covid-19 restrictions, artist Husna Nyathira is cut off from art exhibitions, workshops and artistic interactions. Social media and the occasional live sessions are her only means of staying connected.

“It has given me a chance to rest and reconnect with my form of expression by trying out new experiments,” says Nyathira.

Her most recent project is the Identity series, which is an introspection of how people want to be perceived as opposed to what they really are. The portraits are drawn in a single black line on white backgrounds with no shading and yellow the only other colour.

One Identity image is a hip-looking man where the fluid line traces his facial features and spiky yellow hair. Another illustration shows the side profile of a woman with short yellow hair and a raised chin. Drawn in clean, straight lines and rounded angles, the woman presents an image of sophistication.

Nyathira first sketches the drawings then converts them into digital images. The bright yellow colour makes the minimal style memorable. “I love how it demands attention,” she says. Yet emotions still come through the limited lines and large empty spaces. In another Identity portrait, a woman with a yellow Afro hairdo looks at the viewer with intense eyes.

The Identity series is a return to Nyathira’s earlier style of single line portraiture with minimal colours. A few months ago, she was working on a collection of watercolour and ink paintings called the Growth Series. The project came about after completing an art residency where Nyathira said she had “grown both as a person and in art”.