GALLERY: Vaghela is all about looking after the earth

Saturday October 8 2016

Dry, by Gemini Vaghela. PHOTO | KARI MUTU

Dry, by Gemini Vaghela. PHOTO | KARI MUTU 

By Kari Mutu

Visual artist Gemini Vaghela expresses her concern for nature and the earth’s sustainability in many of her paintings. Her most recent collection called What We Need, What We Are Doing, looks at deforestation, desertification, water pollution and other ways in which the environment is exploited.

“Without natural resources such as clean water and air, our survival is not possible and yet we continue to abuse the world around us,” said Vaghela, who has a degree in interactive multimedia technologies and a diploma in photography.

Using mixed media — acrylics, inks, spray paint, sand, sawdust and other materials — Vaghela produces abstract and semi-abstract works. She aims to create an emotional impact that keeps people thinking about each piece long afterwards.

Her nature artworks have a limited palette, leaving room for reflection. The grey-and-black painting titled Into the Forest I Go and the golden orange piece named Rise of New Hope are both semi-abstract illustrations of leafless forests, in light brush strokes. On desertification, a single set of footprints traverses striated sands in Crossing the Desert, whereas the thick brushstrokes in I Am the Engulfing Desert depict an even more arid landscape.

Realising that few people visit art galleries, Vaghela makes scarves and sarongs that are digitally printed with her hand-painted artwork. The result is wearable art where “the message of conservation is then spread to fashion conscious people,” said Vaghela, who has been painting for 15 years.

At 1m by 2m, the viscose and polyester fabrics have rich, earthy colours depicting raging fires in the forest and the crashing of waves on the shore. With names such like Earth, Forest Groves, I Burn and Reconnected, the scarves also make for attractive wall hangings, window sheers or table runners.

Vaghela works out of the Kobo Trust foundation in Nairobi, and has exhibited at the National Museums of Kenya, Banana Hill Art Gallery and the Kuona Trust. Her painting Dry was selected as the press release image for the Universal Exhibition of UN Expo Milano 2015, a congress against world hunger.