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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Allen’s ‘Trees’ portray a serene, poetic beauty

By Andrew Mulenga

Eleven months since his last solo exhibition, wilderness and landscape painter Quentin Allen returns to Ababa House along Lusaka’s Addis Ababa Avenue in collaboration with the Red Dot Gallery for an exhibition entitled Trees.

Acacia Walk (acrylic on paper) by Quentin Allen
He has created a vast body of work with an astounding 83 pieces in total that without doubt places him as one of the busiest artists in the country.

Allen is well known for his portrayal of remarkable sunsets and waterfalls, having introduced us to the many waterfalls of the Muchinga province – a landscape he knows intimately -- which the adventurer says has  in excess of 150 unadulterated cascades, most of which are named after rivers and streams of all sizes. But this particular exhibition is all about trees, as the title suggests. It is all about Acacias and Baobabs and shrubby outcrops in different seasons. But this is not to say he has not thrown in waterfalls or two, such as the little known Moemba Falls of Southern province which he portrays in a scenic landscape entitled Moemba Falls and Star Chestnut.

In Acacia Walk the artist also manages to throw in the silhouette of a herd of elephants at either dusk or dawn trudging in a straight line in front of some acacia trees. It is in paintings like this that the serene and poetic beauty of his landscapes express a romantic view of nature, charming for its nostalgic, unspoiled and natural beauty.

In works such as Mungwena Roots, the portrait of a tree that has its large roots exposed is proof that the artist experiences an emotional interaction with nature and is able to transfer this infatuation onto the viewer as he manages to make a withered old tree jutting out of rocky ground into a beautiful subject that has curious and arresting irregularity with its stark shades of grey set in front of a luxuriant green and yellow leafy backdrop.

Eastern Baobab (acrylic on paper) by Quentin Allen
Also, his important play on light and the general mood of his scenes coupled with the selection of natural colours is a winning combination. Speaking of light, he is able to imitate the sparkle of light, which in many of his landscapes gives the impression of freshness and immediacy, and a sense of changing seasons, suggesting that the artist’s long expeditions into the wilderness have paid off. The result is a style of brilliantly crafted, warm and captivating painting, the kind of paintings one can hang anywhere from the living room to the front office.

But what is probably exciting about the ongoing exhibition – which should run until the end of November – is the fact that there is a painting to fit anyone’s purse or wallet. There are large format paintings that are fetching K5, 000 (five thousand Kwacha) but you also have smaller paitnings that are going for as little as K200 (two hundred Kwacha) which is an outright bargain for work of its standard and also by an artist of Allen’s standing. Anyone thinking of an end of year gift for friends, family or business associates, the Trees exhibition is a “must see”, you will not walk out empty handed. And in this specific case, Allen’s paintings are also a bargain because they are all well framed and some of them are even placed behind protective glass so they are literally ready to hang.

Moemba Falls and Star Chestnut
(acrylic on paper) by Quentin Allen
Because of their subject matter, the paintings are not merely decorative. Depending on the custom or type, trees can symbolise anything from wisdom to long-life or prosperity.

Allen was born in Bulawayo in 1957 and moved to Kitwe in what was then Northern Rhodesia in 1959, when his father was employed on the railways, and later on the copper mines. It was on the Copperbelt as a schoolboy where he soon
Mungwena Roots (acrylic on paper)
by Quentin Allen
developed an eye for art.
He attended Art College in London and Sheffield, in the UK, gaining a degree in Three Dimensional Design and Silver Smithing. On returning to Zambia in 1979 he started the Silver Smith section of Tengu Copper Productions in Kitwe, making silver jewellery and spoons. He moved to Lusaka, where he has a personal studio at his home in 1990 when working with Zuva, an off-shoot of ZCCM subsidiary ZAL Holdings. He then worked for Zambia Gemstones before becoming self-employed as a full-time artist.

1 comment:

  1. I love the first painting with the Elephants..Serene indeed.