Life imitates art as Clinton returns to Kenya

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Lisburn artist Clinton Kirkpatrick travelled back to Kenya this summer for an exhibition at the Nairobi Museum, alongside his mentor John Silver Kimani.

The exhibition ‘Life, And Other Fictions’, is running throughout July and is the second exhibition the artists have had together after a successful exhibition in Seacourt Print Workshop, in Bangor two years ago.

The two artists first met at the end of 2012 when Clinton was in Kenya for the second time. He made connections with organisations and artists during that time, one of which was the Kuona Trust. Kuona advertised a woodcut printmaking course that was to be facilitated by John Kimani, aka Silver, and Clinton signed up to it. Woodcut printmaking, and other printmaking techniques, soon became an integral part of Clinton’s practice and work-to-date, first displaying them at the Island Arts Centre in 2013.

The two artists developed a friendship and work-relationship over recent years and in 2016 Clinton organised a joint exhibition, in Northern Ireland, for them both. This was the first time that they had exhibited together.

After the exhibition in Northern Ireland, the curator at the Nairobi Museum, Lydia Galavu, suggested an idea for an exhibition at the Nairobi Museum. Clinton then returned to Kenya in 2016 to collect research for a future exhibition and the artists both applied to the Nairobi Museum for an exhibition. It was approved for this summer.

Clinton received support from the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) to help the project come to life. The artist stated “that without this support the exhibition would not have happened.”

It allowed Clinton the time and materials to create the work for the exhibition and it contributed towards the logistics of the project. Clinton has received invaluable support from the LCCC over the years for which, he says, he is truly grateful for. Clinton has received support from the LCCC early in his career which has helped the artist maintain a painterly and artistic pathway. The support has helped the artist to remain focused and pursue this line of work.

The work that is going on display at Nairobi Museum, by Clinton, is a collection of 64 monotype and woodcut prints, each representing a different story that the artist collected in 2016.

“I collected stories in all shapes and sizes, some that were personal, ancestral and fictional and these have formed the basis for the entire body of work,” explained Clinton. “The title of the exhibition is Life, And Other Fictions, which plays with the idea of what is real and what is imaginary.”

Silver’s work is colourful and fantastical and even though the artists have very different visions, they complement each other very well. Both artists have a surreal, colourful, playful, and fantastical feel to their work. They explore characters and worlds and that are both recognisable and not recognisable at the same time.

Clinton’s time in Kenya has been fundamental to his development as an artist. “Aspects of the journey have been unexpected yet always fully embraced,” continued Clinton. “When I first visited Kenya, in 2011, I did not expect to still have a conversation with the country, and its people, seven years later. This exhibition, Life, And Other Fictions, is a strong and meaningful body of work that documents personal histories in Kenya.”

The exhibition will be up until the end of July. Clinton will then take three weeks to travel around Kenya, visit friends, and, perhaps, see new parts of the country before returning home towards the end of August. Clinton is currently on a mentorship programme with Turps Banana, in London, which is helping the discussion with his practice and when he returns home he will continue to develop his painting and the understanding of his work.