Camille Wekesa - Kenya

Following heavy rainfall in the Laikipia area over the last year or so, I have not had to go far to find inspiration for my exhibition ‘Lattices’. The trees where I live near the old forests of Mt Kenya as well as those within a short drive to some of Kenya’s parks and private conservancies have given me ample and rich visual reference.

This exhibition is a continuation of my paintings on trees and forests that I began to explore after many years of painting Africa’s great savannas. I became more interested in depicting the incredible variety of indigenous individual trees and forests and the particular role they play in society; not only protecting us from climate change but giving us shade, beauty, sustenance, medicine, herbs and many other benefits.

Plein air painting in oil paint is followed by many months of elaborate intricate work in the studio of building up the lattices and layers with either oil paint on canvas or tempera paint on panel; the latter being a continuing exploration of the new medium of water based tempera paint from my last exhibition in London in 2018 ‘Jade & Silver’ whereby I explored the intricate branch latticework of the trees in order to develop a series of paintings that both celebrate the variety of trees and forests that we have but also allow me to capture the ethereal atmosphere of individual forests. I am interested in the mood and experience created for the viewer that transports them to a place where they can connect to the majesty or uniqueness of a tree or forest.

Many Africans consider trees as sacred such as the Strangler Fig tree for the Kikuyu tribe, the dwellers of the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya forests of the coast and the communities living near the ancient petrified forest of Lake Turkana which all occupy important positions in our natural heritage conservation. Acacia trees are such an iconic part of the African landscape and one of my favourite are the Whistling Thorn Acacia with their swollen black galls which are home to colonies of ants and the Majestic Baobab which is one of longest lived trees on the planet. I hope to convey my love and appreciation for the diversity of trees and forests in Kenya.

I continue to experiment with the push, pull effect of colour which has been even more challenging with the very translucent qualities of tempera paint. My research into what it means to be an African landscape painter is ongoing both as a painter and as a virtual student as I deepen my knowledge of both Western Masters and the great Chinese landscape paintings in ink of the last several centuries.

I am passionate about the conservation of forests and landscapes in Kenya and I see the role of the artist as an extremely important one in highlighting important environmental issues and bringing awareness to the importance of preserving and protecting these stunning habitats and forests.

- Camille Wekesa | KENYA