“To judge a painting, one must consider among others two things: The technical skill and the artistic execution, which is how the artist layers the colours, the composition and the play between light and shade. The second thing is the inherent meaning of the artwork, the conceptual approach – what the artist is trying to communicate.” Hellmuth Rossler, the owner of Red Hill Art Gallery points out.
We are standing in the gallery’s exhibition space. Mounted on the walls are a series of paintings from Michael Musyoka’s solo exhibition, ‘TIME & other constructs’. Hellmuth explains Musyoka’s impressive style to me as we look at one of the paintings titled ‘Time’, which involves the use of abstract techniques and stencils in the background. We explore the elegant manner in which he draws the figures in the foreground. The depiction of movement, which is hurried as the subjects surge forward, tumbling over each other in a frenzied race as they conform to the linear rhythm of time. ‘He is a really an excellent painter,’’ he finally remarks as we move from the gallery to the outdoor area for a cup of tea and conversation on Kenya’s art scene.
Red Hill Art Gallery is a passion project by Hellmuth and Erica Musch-Rossler. After spending 30 years working in different countries in our continent, they decided to settle in Kenya. Initially, the decision to open a gallery in 2012 was for the sole purpose of sharing their broad art collection, amassed over a period of 25 years, to the public. It wasn’t long before various artists began to approach them requesting to exhibit in their gallery.
Currently, the gallery holds 5-6 solo exhibitions annually and a single exhibition of various artists from their private collection under a particular theme.
“Kenya’s visual arts scene is relatively young compared to her West African counterparts.” Hellmuth tells me. “The art pool and market are also quite small which can limit the quality of art produced here.
“African art is often perceived by visitors from abroad within a narrow lane of curios and souvenir pieces that are popular with tourists. Because of this, our intention is to expose the talent and broaden the perception by showcasing contemporary artists in the region.”
On Becoming a Successful Artist
“An artist’s success depends on the artistic quality of their work and luck to access the national or even international market. A formal education is important. The artist learns the basics of drawing properly before they can infuse their voice into the piece.
The formal arts education in Kenya is rather representational and conservative, although a number of Arts & Design Institutes and artists’ collectives have been established in the past promoting a more conceptual approach.
(We receive a lot of young artists whose body of work is mostly landscapes and we have to turn them down because it doesn’t stand out.”) Maybe delete this phrase
Keeping Kenyan Art in Kenya
Hellmuth tells me of a plan within the art community to establish a private trust and open a public, national gallery where artists from various points in Kenya’s past and present will be exhibited.
“A great deal of Kenyan art is not in Kenya. A lot of it is bought and taken abroad. It is important that some of it stays here for ourselves and future generations.”
Michael Musyoka’s TIME & other constructs is on exhibition at Red Hill Art Gallery until 12th May 2019. The gallery is open from 11 am to 5 pm daily. To book an appointment/request call 0700108989.
Kenya never stops Buzzing. You shouldn't either