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Monday, 31 August 2015

Catch a glimpse of Kirby’s ‘Movements’

By Andrew Mulenga

Dancer, oil on canvas by Emily Kirby
Movements, a solo exhibition of recent works by Madrid-based painter Emily Kirby is currently on display at the Zebra Crossings Café, Ababa House, Lusaka. Scheduled to run until 16 September, the artist returns to Zambia with a familiar energy while she continues to explore notions of movement and momentum as the exhibition title indicates.

The Zambian-born artist who has lived and worked in London for many years recently left the city opting for a Spanish base and she seems to be thoroughly enjoying it, but as usual, she makes her – almost – annual trip to visit her parents in Lusaka as well as draw inspiration and gather more material to inform her work.

“I am really excited by the art scene in Madrid. It’s extremely rich historically whilst having a strong emerging contemporary scene as well. It will take time to make new contacts and present myself, but I have already had a lot of interest and I am looking to do a show next year,” says the 2012 Ngoma Awards Zambian Visual Artist in Diaspora winner.

Three Impala, oil on canvas
by Emily Kirby
“I’m lucky that I have built an international network of people that follow my work so I feel free to move anywhere with good travel connections. I am living in a very diverse and vibrant neighbourhood with a large studio space near the Plaza Mayor, it’s a very romantic lifestyle with great weather and friendly people. With London just two hours away it’s perfect.”

Once again her work features charming renderings of wildlife in full motion such as Three Impala in which she portrays a prancing group of young antelope at play. In works like Hippos, she reduces the portrayal of two brawling hippos to an impulsive blur, their wide open mouths being perhaps the only recognizable features in the composition. Kirby also enjoys celebrating the human form in her work, in her poster piece Dancer it should be noticed that the figure of the subject and its movement are more important than the facial details too. It is paintings like these that reaffirm her slot as queen of the fleeting moment. But if there are any significant changes to the artist’s work, it is her palette, while it is still as vibrant as ever, her shades appear a bit chalkier than that of the works she showed in the same venue during the exhibition entitled “Africa Revisited”in 2012, and at the moment, she has firmly settled for oils.  

Time to Fly, oil on canvas by Emily Kirby
“Having worked in acrylics for three years I started to feel limited by the medium. Oils are so flexible you can experiment with many different methods of applying them. It’s exciting and I feel like I’m constantly learning more often by mistakes. The colour is rich as well,” she explains.
Despite the incursion of new media in today’s global art world such as photography, video and installation art, Kirby indicates that painting is making a comeback and she enjoys finding new painters that are challenging the theory that “painting is dead”.

Hippos, oil on canvas by Emily Kirby
“I also think it is important to ask where the line is drawn between what a painting is. It’s multi-media in itself. I also think that referencing art history and applying it to modern concerns and in a contemporary environment will always be refreshing,” she says. 
Giving her work some theoretical framework, she also indicates that art in general, and not only painting can be used as a therapeutic element with regards the fast pace of modern living.

Kirby - art has the ability to be a
catalyst for positive action
“In a world that is increasingly suffering from mankind’s apathy, I believe if we can be more energized by the beauty that is all around us, and feel inspired, even empowered to take more responsibility, there will be an acceleration of movement in the right direction,” points out Kirby “Art can’t pretend to make direct changes in the world, however, I continue to hope it has the ability to capture our imagination and be a catalyst for positive action.”

Born into a family of Lusaka-based artists in the early 1980s, Kirby holds a 2004 BTEC in Fine Art from Brighton City College in England and has exhibited in several group shows in London, Suffolk, Bristol, Surrey in the in England as well as Prague in the Czech Republic and Dubai in the Middle East. An avid travel aficionado, she has journeyed much of East Africa and also spent some time in Malawi and the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.
Movements her fourth solo at Ababa House’s Zebra Crossing Café along Lusaka’s Addis Ababa Drive opened on Thursday this week.  

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