Mbugua’s artwork is fresh, showing a dynamic Africa in motion
Evans Mbugua studied Fine Arts with option Graphic Design at ESAP Pau, France. This grounding is evident in his portraits, vibrant compositions with pictogram-patterned backdrops that, says Mbugua, represent the urban environments that shape our daily lives. Working in oil paint on plexiglass, Mbugua composes his works from a series of dots, creating layers that, in the finished works, result in shapes coming in and out of focus as the viewer moves towards or away from each piece.
“Humans are at the centre of my practice because they are at the centre of my interest,” says Mbugua. Recently, he designed a series of brooches for the Parisian jeweller Chaumet, six extraordinary animal-themed pieces imbued with offbeat humour, colour and character. His work has been shown in Europe, the United States and in his home continent, from Morocco to the South African Republic. He has participated in many contemporary art fairs, including some of the most famous fairs dedicated to contemporary African art (1:54 London and AKAA Paris). Some of his works have been sold in specialized sales of important auction houses in Paris and elsewhere.
“This painting is fresh, showing a dynamic Africa in motion, a positive Africa that immediately provokes the desire to love it! For the artist, dance is a universal language. It allows the transmission of expressions of joy, peace, excitement, tension, weight, space, rhythm, flexibility…However, Mbugua sows several riddles into the work of which he alone possesses the exact answer. While we can venture explanations, they will not necessarily match his. But isn’t it the role of the “observer” to appropriate the work and make it say what they want it to say or understand?
Why do all of the models wear dark glasses? Through the use of this artifice, we are left to consider what dark secret lies behind. Why does the artist try to remove the particular identities of the models? Is it to show that these portraits are not what immortalize youth, in all its forms, regardless of if they are two specifically identified models… There are certain messages, beyond the aesthetic beauty that hook us immediately, that go further and that we have to learn to decipher because obviously it is not just a combination of technical skills, that of the dancers and the artist that represents them.
The dancers are black, true, but they are contemporary and “globalized,” as evidenced by their hairstyles, the costumes and accessories that they wear, and there is nothing to attribute them to a nationality, an ethnic group, a country, all these symbols of borders, of isolation and conflict. They represent Africa as a whole and its transcendent unity.
In contrast to the cliches in use, it is an energetic Africa, not that of the postcards of dancers in their straw rags and ornaments from another era, but a modern, carefree and complete Africa. The artist, who had previously painted rather isolated figures that occupied the canvas, is now passing to pairs of dancers in which we can see signs of additional interpretation criteria on the complementarity and equality of men and women.
Evans MBUGUA makes us want to be happy and optimistic about this continent that we most often represent more in its dramatic turmoil and its deadly contortions, neither of which should be denied. He brings us hope and joy of life and deserves our recognition as such!” Sylvain Sankalé Art Critic Dakar, Senegal