Beatrice Wanjiku, born in Nairobi in 1978, is one of Kenya’s most exciting and original conceptual artists. Her distinctive canvases and works on paper constantly probe the human condition, delving into psychological issues and repeatedly questioning our reality and the space we occupy. Always beginning from a personal perspective, informed by her environment and society’s perceptions that surround her, Wanjiku’s practice scratches away at the superficial images we project in daily life, peeling away the layers that constitute social norm and revealing haunting, abstract figures that mirror our personal, inner self. Existentialism and the shifting nature of human beings are a constant concern in her practice. She repeatedly interrogates our capacity for self-awareness and our ability to transform, offering an insight into our eternal quest to understand our realities.
Her most recent series of paintings and collages take the image and connotation of the Straitjacket as a departing point to explore the idea of boundaries and imposed systems of thought. The works delve into how we are anchored by social conditioning and expectation, always bound at the expense of what we desire. There is tension and restlessness in these intriguing group of works which explore repression, want, and other emotions through a rich, unsettling tapestry of abstract figures set against unadorned, monochrome backdrops. Haunting, shadowy and dramatic, Wanjiku’s figures float onto the picture plane, sometimes alone, sometimes grouped in clusters blending into each other. Their powerful, abstract forms function as mirrors, leaving the viewer to project and question his own personal experience.
Wanjiku received her diploma from Nairobi’s Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts in 2000 and lives and works in Nairobi, Kenya. Her recent exhibitions include The OSTRALE 2015, Dresden, Germany (2015) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Richard Taittinger Gallery, New York, USA (2015) curated by Ugochukwu Smooth Nzewi. She is a recipient of the UNESCO Aschberg Bursary (2013); Lava Thomas and Peter Danzig Fellowship Award (2013); Robert Sterling Clarke Foundation Fellowship (2011); and Alliance Francaise’s and Goethe-Institut’s Most Promising Female Artist Award (2006). Her recent international artists’ residencies include the Iwalewa Haus Artist Residency Program, Bayreuth, Germany (2015), Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Woodside, CA (2013), and Vermont Studio Center Program, Johnson, VT (2011).