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Painters 2013

Justus Kyalo

“I envy the kids growing up in Lamu” Justus Kyalo remarks, as he watches children playing freely in carless streets and riding donkeys for pleasure. The pace of Lamu life works well for him and its landscapes are in inspiration. “I love the ocean, beaches and plants that I see,” he exclaims, all the natural elements that make Lamu a special place. Kyalo’s method of working is to experience the space he is in by sitting and listening to people around him, whether it is the market, the town square, shops, seated in someone’s orchard of mangoes or at the seaside. From these moments he collects the nuances of moods, the buzz, so to speak. Then, back at his work space he begins to translate the sights, sounds and smells with paint on unstretched canvas. Wearing headphones to hear his music, he begins the process. He dyes the canvas in colour and applies further layers with a brush. The effect is colours absorbed, resonating with moods, fragments of memories or suggestive natural elements. Sometimes he scratches the surface, like an etching of calligraphy, which resonates with Arabic writing so prevalent on houses and doorways.

Justus Kyalo was born in 1976 in Nairobi, Kenya. He trained at the Creative Arts Centre and worked as an illustrator briefly. His early paintings were inspired by the world of fashion and dance, often involving his own experiments in performance with music and dancing. This experience slowly transformed his approach to painting. He found himself improvising more and working with his feelings and his painting progressively became non-figurative. Kyalo is one of Nairobi’s acknowledged artists and he has attended workshops in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and Cameroon, on the African continent as well as Oxford, in the UK.