| To Stand on a Grain of Wheat |

Jessica Atieno - Kenya

Consider that something as small as a grain of wheat can bear the weight of a human being. Now imagine yourself perched atop that grain, the grain itself tethered to an ear of wheat, your eyes sweeping over an enormous wheat field. Wheat teems before you; each blade, each ear, each grain is a world unto itself, an endless array of possibilities, small worlds whose internal logic eludes you. What could this grain contain that would make it so strong as to hoist, to hold, to carry, to heave a human body over itself and hold it in place? What of this world can you know, and how?

Your body, this vast landscape that contains you, this thing that makes more of itself, that stretches on, its most fundamental particles multiplying and transforming every day, some dying and new ones born in their place, how do you map it? You could start from the outside, tracing the rise and fall of its exterior. Alternatively, you look inward and lay bare its constituent parts for examination, zooming in on the most minute components. To traverse the human body, Jess Atieno chooses the latter - training her mind and eye on its most basic biological units.

Curiosity and the joy of discovery guide Atieno’s journey into the shapes and textures and formations and movements of the cells and tissues that cumulatively form the human body. As with stars in a galaxy, forms drift in space, jostling into the various formations that comprise Atieno’s cartography of the body. Here, a speculative process substitutes the accuracy sought in scientific illustrations with a playful adoption and adaptation of various cell shapes encountered in her research. These forms are magnified, multiplied and loosed over the crisp white expanse of paper, sliding past and sidling up to one another, bundling together and drifting apart, edges pressed in and at times overlapping. They flow in such a way as to suggest tugging and yawing by unseen forces. We are seeing the making of a world.

Atieno lays out world before us, boundless and unencumbered. Using imagery that is leading but not literal, she moves us from the known to the mysterious. If these miniscule particles are capable of sustaining life, then it seems less absurd that one could be borne by a single grain of wheat. This study of the internal landscape of the human body proceeds unrestrained, inviting myriad associations yet insisting that the work be known only through attent iveness to its own internal logic.

- Don Handa

Jess Atieno creates work as a continuous interrogation on the idea of space. Within this, she has especially taken interest on how the human body interacts with the physical and psychological spaces In her most recent work, Atieno explores the inner space of the body, training her mind and eye on its most basic biological units to map it,

Atieno has also focused on gender matters and has in her earlier works explored the female body as burden. She continues to make entries on this subject with ongoing research, most recently, an interesting intersection between ownership and the black body as landscape.

Selected Exhibition
  • 2019 – To Stand on a Grain of Wheat: Solo exhibition, Red Hill Art Gallery
  • 2017 – The Making of Worlds: Group exhibition, Festung Hohensalzburg
  • 2017 – LINE GAUGE: Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
  • 2017 – BEING HERE: Banco Economico Gallery, Luanda, Angola
  • 2016 – YOUTOPIC: Group show, Millerntor Gallery, Hamburg
  • 2015 – HERE & HERE: Àsìkò Addis Ababa Final Exhibition, Asni Gallery
  • 2014 – MAKING A MARK: A group show, Polka Dot Gallery Nairobi
  • 2014 – AFRICAN CONTEMPORARY: A selection of the gallery's collection,Red Hill Art Gallery, Nairobi
  • 2019 – #FULL_FRONTAL: Solo Installation booth, Kenya Art Fair
From this Exhibition
Publications & Press
GALLERIES: Proving a point in black and white… By Frank Whalley - THE EASTAFRICAN
Etchings as Visual Poetry Margaretta wa Gacheru - BUSINESS DAILY AFRICA
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