| Suspensions |

Churchill Ongere - Kenya

With Suspensions Ongere presents a body of work that began as a daily journaling of his personal responses to the goings on in Kenya in the period leading up to the 2017 general elections. The prevalent idea of “tension” as a marker of the socio-political climate in within the country was at the time, led Ongere to consider the question of the location, access to and contestation of power.

In his considerations of power, Ongere eschews explicitly political or anecdotal imagery. To communicate he relies instead on innocuous objects and their movements and interactions within undefined bound and open areas. Everyday objects such as chairs, stools, boxes and fruit – suspended, drifting, tumbling – function as ambiguous metaphors whose interpretations rely on the viewer and how/where they situate themselves within the work.

The chair, for example, is cast as a symbol for (the location of) power. The fact of the chair being unoccupied signals that power is something, albeit abstract and diffuse – see the multitude of chairs afloat above what looks to be a chasm of sorts in one of the smaller works - available to be claimed, wielded, shared, transferred, also the case with the boxes and stools and fruit. The boxes too bear multiple readings, offering impressions of bounty and of emptying out, whilst also functioning as portals through, or inward projections further into the pictured spaces. An enforced ambiguity encourages multiple readings of Ongere’s symbols.

If one were to take these compositions as windows into a single continuous world, then the number of potential movements within individual works, as well as across multiple works expands, ascents, descents, intrusions, collisions, repulsions, pushes and pulls, thrusts, ripples, all are possible. The varied make-up of similar objects adds to the complexity of these seemingly benign compositions, as does the changing nature of the depicted spaces, which oscillate between placid and chaotic.

While approaching this subject matter from a relatively oblique position, Ongere’s bodies interacting across various terrains encourage reflection on politics of shared/sharing geographic, temporal, socio-political and historical space. Here, suspension is proposed not as end, but merely as a transitory point along a continuum of exchanges between individuals and groups.

-Don Handa

Biography

Churchill Ongere is a self taught artist living and working in Nairobi. He is perched at the intersection of art practice and advocacy for the neo-liberation of the expression space. He has been practicing as a visual artist for over five years, having navigated other types of art, like poetry, music and graffiti. Often made after much critical observation, his works are both an illustration and an inquisition into conspicuous and indistinct topics in the contemporary space like history, population and the politics of human relations.

Selected Exhibition
  • 2018 – Generation Y – Retro Africa, Abuja, Nigeria
  • 2017 – Stranger Times, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2017 – Unknown – Untold, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2017 – Young Guns, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2016 – Kenya Art Fair, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2015 – Paper II, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2014 – Paper, Shift Eye Studios, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2014 – Kenya Art Fair, Nairobi, Kenya
From this Exhibition
Publications & Press

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