Artists in residence given opportunity for self- discovery and sale art
Kampala, Uganda | DOMINIC MUWANGUZI | A new artists- residency has opened its doors in Kampala. It is a product of Afriart gallery, running under the Silhouette Projects, an incubator platform of the gallery. It is a unique venture where artists are helped to sell their work after graduating from the residence. The accent on sales distinguishes it from other local residencies that provide working studios for artists, but with little intent to sell their work. The notion to sell art is partly motivated by the international art market the gallery has access to. This is courtesy of its newly acquired status as an international art space with numerous connections with global art sales PIASA art Auction, Johannesburg Art Fair and Art X Lagos.
The ongoing show at the Afriart gallery tittled (IM) PERFECTION is evident to the commercial approach undertaken by the residency. Located within the same building of the residence, formerly a warehouse, the white cube space showcases installation artworks of Odor Roland and Atugonza Richard which are on sale. The two are the first alumni of the residence and their work reverberate the experimental processes they undertook in the five – three months program. With a uniform background in art making- working with recyclable materials like aluminum printing plates and plastics (Kaveera)- both artists were able to cooperate with each other while pushing the boundaries of their respective craft.
“My cooperation with Atugonza contributed to the shift in my work. Before I was painting on the aluminum printing plates or making installations fused with fabric. Today, my approach to the medium has evolved to producing artworks that are replicas of objects I am familiar with in my day to day life and experimenting with cooper,” says Odor, a spoken young artist, whose connection with aluminum plates stems from his childhood background as a scrapper around the city’s slummy areas.
Indeed, the viewer’s gaze is treated to conceptual installations of replica objects like shirt, back- bag, a miniature installation of packet of cigarettes and pair of shoes that denote the everyday life of the artist. The artworks are contextualized within the concept of freedom of movement and the possibilities and opportunities that lay in the obstacles he faces within himself and those that surround him. For the artist, he seemed to have conceived this body of work, partly inspired by his personal experiences during the lockdown that restricted movement and had a reverse impact on the everyday happenings. It is sufficient to note that the artist first had the idea to commute from his home to the residency, but later- due to the heightened transport costs- adjusted to taking up permanent residence at the space. Such transitioning pervades the reflective and ably manipulated objects on display.
On the other hand, Atugonza’s series of persons’ (im) perfect heads or torsos created through applying the casting technique imbue a quality of solidness while visually appearing incomplete. The dominance of the melancholy mood in the figurines metaphorically suggest both the character of the artist- the artist is naturally withdrawn to himself- and the mood of the time they were created in. Incidentally, the character of the sculptures with their solemnity and colour barrenness is mitigated by the white background within which they’re installed.
But with the approach on art sales, one may opinion the concern of the possibility of the gallery concentrating more on the commercial aspect of the art and compromise on originality and relevance. This consequently can lead to artists getting away with weak art. Nonetheless, the assertion by the residence to focus on the long term growth of the artists’ career through mentorship by professionals in the local industry inspires confidence in the project. Daudi Karungi, Director of Afriart gallery, re-echoes such long term strategy. ‘The residence is essentially concerned with helping artists finding themselves’ he says. Clearly, through this rigorous process of self –discovery artists like Atugonza showcased at c1-54 London auction 2020.
.A foray into the international market is a good opportunity for the artists to reach out to new audiences and sell big money. Yet the notion of seeking for a global clientele for art without developing a local market for the young artists can be problematic in the long run. Global art markets are influenced by what is trending at the time and this may continuously cause a shift in the way artists produce art because they’re infatuated with feeding an international market. Can the residence help the young artists to create symmetry in their work: to create what is sellable internationally, but also at the same time, produce what is original and gives them a local identity? It is this balance of the two that will determine the success of the residence and not the number of artists presented on the global art stage or the staggering amount they sell there.
The residency is open to all young artists from the East African Region who’re interested in the long term development of their art careers.