Churchill Ongere (1991 – )

Artwork by Churchill Ongere

Selected Exhibitions

2019    ‘A Smaller Scale’, EBONY/CURATED, Cape Town, South Africa

2018    ‘Generation Y’, Retro Africa, Abuja, Nigeria

2018    ‘Shifting Tides’, EBONY/CURATED Bordeaux House, Franschhoek, South Africa

2017    ‘Stranger Times’, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya

2017    ‘Unknown Untold’, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

2017    ‘Young Guns’, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya

2016   ‘Winning Works for MASK 2016 Prize’, Saatchi Gallery, Zandra Rhodes Gallery & Turner Contemporary Gallery, United Kingdom

2015    ‘Winning Works for MASK 2015 Prize’, Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom

2015    ‘Paper II’, Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya

2014    ‘Paper’, Shift Eye Studio, Nairobi, Kenya

Churchill Ongere is a self-taught, multi-media artist living and working in Nairobi, Kenya. An active member of the Kenyan art community, Ongere’s works both as a fine artist and an art advocate for freedom of artist expression in postcolonial spaces.

Subtly political, Ongere’s work illustrates the tensions inherent in the modern world as human beings and other entities navigate the politics of power, identity, belonging, alliance, competition, and dominance in an ever-changing global landscape.

In his latest series of works the artist comments on the changes in the global power-scapes, focusing on the recently witnessed regime changes and retentions in focal countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and the United States of America.

“In his considerations of power, Ongere eschews explicitly political or anecdotal imagery. To communicate he relies instead on innocuous objects and their movements and interactions within undefined bound and open areas. Everyday objects such as chairs, stools, boxes and fruit – suspended, drifting, tumbling – function as ambiguous metaphors whose interpretations rely on the viewer and how/where they situate themselves within the work.

The chair, for example, is cast as a symbol for (the location of) power. The fact of the chair being unoccupied signals that power is something, albeit abstract and diffuse – see the multitude of chairs afloat above what looks to be a chasm of sorts in one of the smaller works – available to be claimed, wielded, shared, transferred, also the case with the boxes and stools and fruit. The boxes too bear multiple readings, offering impressions of bounty and of emptying out, whilst also functioning as portals through, or inward projections further into the pictured spaces. An enforced ambiguity encourages multiple readings of Ongere’s symbols.

If one were to take these compositions as windows into a single continuous world, then the number of potential movements within individual works, as well as across multiple works expands, ascents, descents, intrusions, collisions, repulsions, pushes and pulls, thrusts, ripples, all are possible. The varied make-up of similar objects adds to the complexity of these seemingly benign compositions, as does the changing nature of the depicted spaces, which oscillate between placid and chaotic.

While approaching this subject matter from a relatively oblique position, Ongere’s bodies interacting across various terrains encourage reflection on politics of shared/sharing geographic, temporal, socio-political and historical space. Here, suspension is proposed not as end, but merely as a transitory point along a continuum of exchanges between individuals and groups.”

-Don Handa