post-title Kaloki Nyamai | Dining in Chaos | Galerie Barbara Thumm | 28.04.–24.06.2023

Kaloki Nyamai | Dining in Chaos | Galerie Barbara Thumm | 28.04.–24.06.2023

Kaloki Nyamai | Dining in Chaos | Galerie Barbara Thumm | 28.04.–24.06.2023

Kaloki Nyamai | Dining in Chaos | Galerie Barbara Thumm | 28.04.–24.06.2023

until 24.06. | #3883ARTatBerlin | Galerie Barbara Thumm shows on 28. April 2023 the exhibition Dining in Chaos by the artist Kaloki Nyamai.

The paintings by Kaloki Nyamai are characterized by organic layers. While his figurative motifs are easily recognizable, each image is a unique marriage of storytelling and material. His compositions involve threaded layers; braiding, stitched rope, collage, and yarn. Overall, his use of unusual materials suffuses canvases with narrative and physical weight. His compositions, at times framed and others suspended or un-stretched, explore the historical tradition of painting.

‘Dining in Chaos’ presents an ensemble of five paintings. The quintet displays Nyamai’s ongoing vocabulary of mix-media and figurative portraiture. The diptych of ‘Twikale vaa gutavye kela kindo’ draws two lovers. In both paintings, a couple sits in the midst of protests and collective chanting. A third frame introduces a woman leaning on the ground. The title is ‘Mukomi’, the Kamba word for sleeper. Her repose, however, is ambiguous. The viewer does not know whether she is asleep or fallen on the streets. With skillful use of contrast, Nyamai provides enough detail to create distinguishable scenes while obfuscating particularity. His figures, more-so than individual portraits, are images of a society at large. The fourth painting, ‘Twe eli vaa’, breaks the consistent palette. In this frame, Nyamai introduces red to draw multiple vignettes. A man poses on the foreground while a nude couple reclines in the back. A woman raises her fist. These scenes, entirely composed in Kenya, are inseparable from Nyamai’s daily observations at the height of civil protests in the capital of the country. If water cannons and teargas were used to disperse protestors in the streets of Nairobi, Nyamai halts their gestures of life and resistance on his canvas.

‘Dining in Chaos’ depicts figures in times of local and historical crisis. In this series, chaos is treated as a stage for the tumultuous beauty of our times. Nyamai has already reflected on social unrest and its apocalyptic implications in previous works. In an untitled series from 2005-2007, Nyamai used controlled burning as an image-making technique. His paintings dealt with combustion, using charcoal from scorched houses in the Mukuru Kayaba slum, Nairobi. These escapes depicted traces of silent ignition, both figuratively and materially. The apocalypse was then, a means of social transformation rather than a deafening end.

An earlier painting, ‘Ngoka na mina’ (2023), lends its translated title to Nyamai’s first solo exhibition in Berlin; Dining In Chaos. This scene depicts three figures framed in collective activity. On a first glance, characters appear starkly by the contrast of their skin against the pink, pastel background. Later, a street emerges in motion. Following previous works by Nyamai, this frame is composed in acrylic, sisal rope, and dye transfer over canvas. Furthering Nyamai’s investigations in material density and portraiture, the five exhibited works address social and internal challenges in our disparaging political climate. An underlying question pulses throughout the works; does one stop abruptly, or carry on dining.

Opening: Friday, 28. April 2023 , 6:00  – 9:00 pm.

Exhibition dates: Freitag, 28. April  – Samstag, 24. Juni 2023

To the gallery



Bildunterschrift Titel: Kaloki Nyamai: Ngoka na mina/ (Dining in Chaos), 2023, acrylic, collage stitching on canvas, 210 x 210 cm. Courtesy  Galerie Barbara Thumm

Exhibition Kaloki Nyamai – Galerie Barbara Thumm | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin


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