Scandi-GAN – contemporary art juxtaposed with mid century Scandinavian
In London’s Piccadilly, Norwegian Rain and long-term collaborator Modern Tribute have put on an in-store exhibition titled Scandi-GAN with Studio Ifreecans and their roster of NextGAN visual artists.
Scandi-GAN is an exhibition juxtaposing Mid Century Scandinavian furnishings and accessories at with NextGAN artworks with an aim of facilitating aesthetic convergence between cross-cultural art, design and craft. The unifying theme is that conceptually sound, high quality yet emotionally authentic furniture accentuates art of a similar nature and vice versa.
Scandi-GAN’s concept draws inspiration from Danish Industrial designer and affiliate of the Scandinavian Design movement Kristian Solmer Vedel, and his appointment in 1968 as Head and Professor of The Department of Design at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Development at University Of Nairobi. Between 1968-1971, Vedel pioneered a fresh approach based upon revolutionary thinking about design, emphasising new designers had to cross normal professional boundaries, normal boundaries of traditional design thinking and skills application and barriers of social class and language. Whilst at the helm he firmly established a more humanistic role of design, demonstrating not only its relevance to the then newly developing country, but also ensuring products created would remain close to local cultural practices and thrive on diversity.
Inadvertently, all of the participating NextGAN artists originally hail from Kenya, but have spent their formative years living, working and studying in the West. What resonates with them collectively is Vedel’s philosophy of revising one’s thinking to change structures, encouraging diversity and breaking boundaries. Kristian Vedel’s influence further manifests itself in the exhibition title, Scandi-GAN, which serves as an exercise that involves delving into and questioning the matrix pertaining the creation of classifications and titles within artistic and design based practices and movements.
Scandi being the informal shortening of almost all things Scandinavian, has also become a common term used when describing Mid Century Scandinavian and to a certain degree Mid Century Modern furniture. The phrase “Mid Century modern” was coined by author Cara Greenberg in 1984, appearing in the book Mid Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s . Greenberg has been quoted saying she “just made up” the phrase, even though it has since been subsequently adopted into the vernacular used by both the design world and mainstream audiences.
GAN is an acronym for Generation Africa Now, a title that arose from the desire to create an annex to the stifling and now saturated movement of Contemporary African Art. A by-product of the creation of GAN is the moniker NextGAN Artists, whose affiliates aim to break away from the restrictions associated with Contemporary African art. By being the next in line, GAN artists wish to facilitate necessary discourse regarding the implementation of an inclusive platform that showcases work capturing not only the past but also the present cultural zeitgeist.
Figurative pieces focused on the solitary female form dominate the majority of Lillianne Akinyi’s diverse body of work. Using herself as a muse, Akinyi repeatedly revisits her solo figure in drawing, painting, mixed media and film. Through illustrating how different her created characters can be whilst occupying the same body, she seeks to reconcile herself with her physical evolution, what is considered universally as sexually appealing and the role she plays in life as woman.
Identity pertaining to power in a globalised world is the crossroad where Evelyn Wangui aka Miss Eve finds herself at present. Does an audience that can brand itself liberate an image-maker from having to resolve discourses regarding past and present ism’s ? In a world where “selfies” are revising perceptions and creative tools are democratised, she explores the reevaluation of both artists and images produced in a more exclusive process, and in this instance, through silkscreen printing.
How experimental use of shapes can alter context is a theme that runs prevalently in the works of Robert Ngare. Shapes and form are used to explore the ambiguity of identity through layering and contrast of colours within work. Can one tell of the artist’s origins and intentions if he opts for a more abstract approach and are an audience’s interest influenced by the style of work , the artists themselves or both, and does it really matter. The truth one arrives at by working in this way is, everything is subject to interpretation irrespective of the measures taken to contextualise such work.
Narratives highlighting the complexities of human interaction, perception and communication within opposite and same sex relationships are revisited themes in the body of mixed media paintings created by Kiboko B.N. The figurative subjects are deployed to weave and participate in contradictory tales, both exotic and familiar , exploring everything from identity, sexuality, origin, association, aesthetics and fashion. Kiboko makes each figure a protagonist , allowing the audience to choose from the hints of universality dotted throughout and to hopefully assigning a suitable subject to each thus executing their own digestible narrative. Everyone is encouraged to tell their own stories.