• ArchiDATUM Dates: Joe Gitau on the Psychedelic Battle with Paint

Venue: National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi
Date: Friday March 1 2013

Meet Joe Gitau Kamau, an artist and art collector who believes in art as a hobby, a business, and a community service. A man with hearty laughter and high spirits, his greatest contentment so far comes from the tremendous collection of Joe Ashley’s psychedelic paintings, 52 in total. He has collected art from other artists both from local and international artists and has sold over 112 major paintings in the last 15years. Currently selling Joe Ashey’s art, he has transacted 30 of his paintings; 16 of these paintings in Kenya alone.

Joe Gitau aims to inspire a strong art culture in Kenya that perceives art as not just a product of simple aesthetics but as a form of investment and richer narrative.

The Master Piece

The prolific painter Joe Ashley started on The ‘Creation DNA’ -a painting of luminous paint on wood painted using Japanese paint brushes under black U.V light- about 20yrs ago. It was in black and white then, when Joe Gitau joined in, and it took them about 1more year of work to make it what it is today.

To appreciate the psychedelic effect of the painting, it has to be viewed under a special light in a dark room of the Creative gallery in the museum. The Great Dragon beside it reacts mystically to the light, its scales changing color and appearing to breathe in and out of the wall. The paintings are aptly dubbed Glow-in the-Dark, and a video displays the artistic process on a TV screen inside.

When asked what the painting, CreationDNA is about, Joe gazes deeply at the piece prized at Ksh800,000 and recollects, “for me, when I look at this painting, I see peace”. If you look closely, you can start to see the peace sign and a love shape in abstraction among human figures. Three colors are dominant- pink, blue & orange. It is hard to believe that this painting was originally done in black and white.

He says that everytime he looks at it he sees something different, something new. “An artist will depict his ideas, but as an observer when you look at it, you see what you want to see”. With the images ever-changing and perceptions so diverse, countered with the changing lighting effects on the luminous paint, the painting becomes fluid and timeless-a master piece.

“To improve on our ways of living, we definitely need to improve on the way we treat art...“ Art impacts greatly on other industries such as the textile fashion, the car mobil and yes, architecture! In a society that embraces their African roots, expressions need to be riff with the values inherent to the people. Joe points out his inspiration on using dragons were the oral narratives he was told in childhood, as a visual aid that can be identified in both the Japanese and British cultures.  “...Art is the only language that unites us regardless of our race, language and vast cultures,” he says.

Joe Ashley

Joe Ashley is a fascinating artist in the abstract world with an inclination to luminous paint and intricate linear strokes. During and after the paintings, he was settled in the mountains of west Japan, in the ancient city of Nara prefecture. He tends to use Japanese brushes for their high quality and paints in a dark room lit with a black U.V light to acquire the most of a psychedelic effect. Most of the collection in this exhibition was a part of his 2007 project and this series was specifically commissioned by Kenyan collector Joseph Kamau Gitau.

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