Be warned you; this is a rave review on all counts. I have heard that the impact of collision is lessened, if you see it coming. Now, that is entirely misguided, but you have figured out what I am doing, right? I am buttering you up to agree with me! These are some of the antics Ronex did not have to employ to persuade his crowd about the validity of his work; it spoke volumes on its own. The moment seldom comes by, but when it does and you chance upon greatness, it offers a fluency in expression that opens you up to the clarity of a language you only grasped at before.
The ‘18cm by 18cm’ display by Ronex at the AFri art gallery was this singular experience for me. On arrival, I, like everybody else in attendance was greeted by the loud and thumping beating of drums. There was a line up in the front yard with a set of percussion drums that were the rhythmic accompaniment for the day. They lent their stamp of culture to the event, needless to say, that alone set it apart. The turnout was impressive and the drinks, aplenty.
There was a confidence in the display from the get go; the ingenuity of it, coupled with its sheer simplicity. The collection featured over 50 pieces cased in wooden frames and hang on sheets of wire mesh, held in place by string and a pair of bricks. As promised, every piece was 18 by 18 cm at 50$ apiece, and the rate at which these were selling, is a testament to their originality.
The statement that greeted you on entry invited you to move the pieces around at will, which I thought was utterly brave. Only a few people are gifted enough, so that no amount of distortion can mask their brilliance. Artists tend to hone in or even obsess over the exactness of their presentation, believing that without definitive structure the appreciation of their work will be lessened. Ronex, on the other hand welcomed the public to derive what they would from his work. He was comfortable letting his art do the talking, and with good reason too. Contorted, distorted, or even turned upside down, the art was still sublime.
It was a supremely diverse collection that offered color and culture; it captured sentiment and recreated grandness, effectively covering the broad spectrum of the human experience as intended. He showed off a variety of techniques in his work; drawing, painting, patching and there was even some work with fiber glass. On inquiry he explained that he did not limit himself and used about everything that was available to him to achieve the desired effects in his finished product. He used paint; oil and water, paper cuttings, soil, polish and the occasional chemical ingredient that I do not quite seem to recall.
The technique that floored many along with me was an extremely interesting technique I am yet to see else where It offered the illusion of one thing entirely different from its make. He is a master of texture, and this is where it was highlighted. With this technique, some of the pieces could pass for stone or concrete, some looked like metal plates and others wood. To top it off, this entire collection was accomplished with a bit of polish and paper! This got me wondering about his process. What comes first? The pressing, or the polish, and how does he achieve such a fine finish?
There are basically two types of people who go for art shows, the genuine admirers, and even the ones that send scouts to recognize the good art and bid for it on their behalf. The other would be the enthusiasts; usually budding artists scoping around to see what is out there and what they can glean from the people they admire. Well, maybe there are three types after all, because there is me and my camaraderie, whose job requires it.
Regardless of why you were there, there was something for everybody in this diverse collection; something to admire, something to aspire to and something to appreciate. No matter your taste or reservations about contemporary art; something tickled your fancy. Maybe it was the edgy and yet raw style of his patchwork, or the explosion of color in pieces with the fiber glass. It could have been his tribute to the human form, particularly the feminine shape or maybe the subtle inflections he added to the faces he drew. The definitive pictures that captured emotion and personality, or the more subtle approach his abstract work offered; where one could establish some semblance of order in the apparent chaos.
Ronex is a man undaunted by his gifting, small in frame and unassuming in personality. It is no wonder he indulged my ceaseless questioning about his technique and interestingly enough, shared his process. The exhibition will run for a couple more weeks, giving you time to go witness his amazing work for yourself before it is all snatched up.
In retrospect, I should have expected this level of artistry, seeing that he was the winner of the Kampala contemporary art festival last year. The title of the inaugural festival was “12 boxes moving”, and he was awarded the ‘Iwalewa Haus’ International Award for his piece Truly Gifted.