Ugandan artist Mark Kassi Byamugisha studied textiles and fabrics at Kyambogo University, but his real passion lay in painting. So he taught himself how to paint, visiting libraries and galleries then practising on unprimed canvases.
“The older practicing artists weren’t very open to younger artists, so it was hard,” said Kassi.
But today, his artworks are attracting attention.
A series of his figurative and wildlife paintings titled Motions was recently on display at the Talisman Restaurant in Nairobi and is now showing at Karen Country Club.
Kassi says he does not go far from his studio, on the outskirts of Kampala, to find inspiration because the streets where he lives are filled with children and stories to paint. He captures everyday scenes, people or social issues that strike him.
The results are semi-realistic illustrations of familiar subjects. He paints with acrylics, in broad brushstrokes, the canvas filled with several complimentary colours and containing textured surfaces that give life to the images.
A bright painting called Rhythm of the Drum shows girls dancing among tall drums, hips tilted and arms extended to accentuate their vigorous movements. The girls seem enraptured by the dance.
With whimsical subtlety, Kassi has portrayed a woman carrying a large tray laden with a large bunch of bananas on her head.
The geometric pattern on one side of the painting breaks up the wind-blown dress she wears, while her featureless face allows you to imagine her story.
You sense the movement in the painting All in a Day’s Work, which is a paitning of a fisherman walking away from moored boats carrying freshly-caught fish. Drops of water fall, and the grey-blue water shimmers behind him. The patchwork style of colours adds to the expressionist feel of the scene.
Kassi likes to experiment with different subjects as a way to cut across audiences. Visits to Queen Elizabeth National Park nurtured his imagination and the Motions collection contains wildlife paintings which that also elicit emotive thoughts in the viewer.
A mother elephant and calf in complementary grey and green colours are walking purposefully along, in one painting. In another, a gazelle leaps away with blurry grace against a fuzzy background of multi-coloured fragments that enhance the animal’s movement.