Framing quest for success in symbolism

Saturday February 3 2018

Untitled III, by Irungu Andrew Chege.

Untitled III, by Irungu Andrew Chege. 

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Irungu Andrew Chege has embraced symbolism with a series of acrylic paintings of city streets.

He has an untitled image on canvas of tall electricity posts and straight powerlines against a yellow building under a splotchy sky. Another of his paintings shows power cables spreading out from a pair of poles in front of a grey office building.

Chege sticks to a limited palette: Greyscale with one or two primary colours.

For him, urban structures symbolise high hopes for artistic achievement. The paintings are drawn from a ground level perspective, making the objects appear taller than they actually are, and adding to the sense of inferiority.

“The posts aligned along a path signify the road to success, and the successive equidistant gaps represent the consistency with which I need to work to reach my goal,” explains Chege. He signs his artwork as Crae, “Creative Artist Energy.”

At a deeper level, he says, the buildings represent people from diverse backgrounds who sustain his creativity by purchasing his artworks.

“My art is functional, and not just appreciated,” says Chege, who has been drawing since the age of four, and studied art at Kenyatta University.

He also paints commissioned works of outer space, a concept that he says he does not believe in but is fascinated by.

“It has broadened my concept of achieving to the beyond,” he says.

The painting Trippy is of a cluster of red, blue and green planets, some with rings, zipping around a semi-cloudy night sky above crimson buildings and powerlines. It is an interesting, fantasy-like image from Chege’s idea of the infinite universe. He describes it as a “planetary system sort of smash-zooming into the background of Trippy.”

A more ordinary picture is Places, in which a crescent moon dominates a deep blue sky and reflects multiple times onto a drab scene of city buildings and power poles.

The inspiration came partly from the different places Chege has travelled to, combined with his objective for career success which, he says, is also about looking at the bright side.

Chege’s work is on display at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi, and at his studio at the Dust Depot situated in the Nairobi Railway Museum.