On Saturday, Xenson Art Space was the place to be with the opening of Look One, an exhibition that is aimed at showcasing emerging talent.
Since the coronavirus started having a toll on humanity, life as it is known went into limbo.
Kampala’s social life was brought to a standstill as gatherings of any kind were suspended; today, the country is still under curfews and different restrictions, but it’s better than it was March when many people stayed home.
As different sectors adapt to the new normal, work in the arts has been specifically slow since many of them can hardly work without gathering.
In fact, most of them have been going on with musical virtual shows, YouTube film screenings and theatre shows.
Visual art has been on the sidelines, until Saturday.
On September 5, Xenson Art Space hosted what may be the first physical art exhibition since movement was restricted.
Unlike the past art exhibitions that always start at 6pm and go on till 9pm, this one started at mid day.
Aptly titled Look One, this was the first exhibition the space was hosting since it was set up at the beginning of the year, then, the vision was to become that art space not to only benefit visual artists but other disciplines as well.
They are also interested in introducing new names to art collectors – and it was visible with many of the artists they had in their catalogue.
Some were exhibiting in Kampala for the first time, while for the others, this was the very first exhibition they have showcased at since they started practising.
The group exhibition was a breath of fresh air in regards to the on going pandemic times but also a new feel for the art scene, for instance, even the curator of the day Trevor Mukholi was a first timer.
With artists Trevor Aloka, Remmy Sserwadda, George Kabonge, John Bosco Muramuzi and Bob Archist, Look One brought a mixture of artistic styles that made us appreciate realism art, at a time many visual artists are becoming abstract.
Each artist in the exhibition had a strong story to tell with their collection, from Sserwadda’s study of men and what drives them to do what they do in Ego, Agape and Philia to Bob Archist’s representation of love, pain and beauty through portraits, each of them had a deeper message on the canvas.
For Aloka, his Emotional Suicide was personal. An emerging artist, his work presents the frustrations of being new in the field, being demotivated and losing passion on the way.
The colorful artwork presents Aloka as the main character in his work committing suicide after acquiring a lot of toxic information from books and the internet.
“Most ambitious artists have people they look up to and times these people will demoralise them with their comments or mislead them as they encourage them to paint in a certain way for some specific market,” he says.
Aloka says that after acquiring much of this information, most artists feel empty, demotivated and thus, the emotional suicide that makes them feel like they are in the wrong profession.
Since the art exhibition was advertised at the end of August, Aloka’s work had interested many people on the internet, but for all the undesirable reasons.
Some wondered why he did images of himself seemingly committing suicide while others wondered if there are people that can buy pictures of someone hanging themselves.
He says sometimes, all works are not created with a sole purpose of being sold, “at times you badly want the story or perspective shared.”
Yet for John BoscoMuramuzi, the exhibition was more of an opportunity to network as well as venture into the unknown. The artist is not based in Kampala thus rarely exhibits in the major galleries.
“I learnt about this particu;lar exhibition when they made a call for artists that wish to have their works exhibited,” he says.
Born in 1991, in Sheema District, Muramuzi says much of the work he has on display has been influenced by his first trip to Kampala.
Thus, it is not surprising that he aptly titled his collection Memories. But besides the things he remembers about the journey, his paintings present the aspirations of the artist; what he wishes Kampala to become or how he hopes the city should be run.
Behind the City, for instance, one of the art works of his on display talks about the different things that happen behind the scenes of a big city; with this work, the artist intends to show the viewer that some of the things in big cities are influenced by the smallest things.
The exhibition that is open until 30 November is just one of the few activities visual artists are putting up as a way of adapting to the new normal.