Painters 2017

Karin Voogd

“Organic” is a word that constantly creeps into Karin’s description of her painting style. Unlike the other artists who felt they were ‘outsiders’ in Lamu, Karin has immersed herself in the local lifestyle. A participant in the 2015 Painter’s Festival, she returned to Lamu on several occasions, learnt to speak Swahili and lived in Matondoni Village. Her familiarity with the language and the people has given her a unique ‘insider’ status.

“Present day Lamu has some similarities to the life characterised by the 16th Century Dutch painters,” Karin reflects. She finds a comparison in the love of making things by the artisans. Perhaps this has influenced her series of paintings that depict room interiors.

Uncomfortable in the architect-designed luxury houses in Shela, she was inspired by the hand-made ‘organic’ element of the local homes. Karin says that her approach to painting is totally intuitive – similar to speaking another language. As she says “it is important that I make things with my hands rather than my head.” This was evident on the Matondoni excursion. Setting up her easel in a gloomy back room, she painted blindly, only using her head torch to mix her colours. The result was a work shrouded in a dark mysterious light, with an emphasis on the chequerboard patterned floor.

Karin likes a sense of mystery in painting and cites the old masters, Rembrandt in particular, as an inspiration. Her dislike of lines is evident in her paintings where her subject matter is encapsulated in a shorthand of swirls, dots and squiggles. Her piece, ‘The Dentist’s Chair’, is painted in an uncharacteristically bright palette of pinks and yellows. When she first entered the room, she assumed it was a hairdresser’s chair but was enchanted to find out that a dentist chair had been given pride of place.
Like many of the other artists, Karin is in awe of Natalia Dik’s profound artistic knowledge. She says she relies Natalia’s perceptive eye to point out the mistakes in composition. The feeling is mutual as Natalia was often moved by Karin’s work.

Karin has not only immersed herself in the Swahili ways, she is also on a mission to inspire the Island’s budding artists. Her intention is to stock the local Lamu library with books on art and art theory. With her drive and ambition, the island is about to have one of the most comprehensive art libraries in Kenya.

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