Geraldine Robarts claims her ‘Art & Soul’ exhibition which opens today at her new Karen art studio-gallery on 56 Kibo Lane, will be her swan song, meaning her last.
But if the explosion of exquisite colours, electrifying energy and expressive verve that’s contained in this exhibition is anything to go by, one will barely believe that Geraldine is done sharing her art with the public.
This is a woman who’s been painting literally all her life, ever since an aunt gave her a paint brush when she could barely walk. Painting has been the one constant in her life (apart from her Ba’hai faith). It’s enabled her to paint her way from Africa to Europe and North America, and then back to Africa, over to Asia severally and back home again.
So it’s highly unlikely that she will stop, especially as this time round, her ‘Art and Soul’ paintings from 2018 are among her most beautiful and colourfully brilliant.
Geraldine has experimented over the years with all sorts of genres of painting, from portraiture, life drawing and still life to abstract, semi-abstract and expressionist.
And with the transformation of her back yard into an indoor-outdoor studio cum performance space, she’s even gotten into ‘installation’ art.
Next thing you know, she’ll be doing performance art, or she’ll be asking other performers to come present their art at her new Jungle art space (my title).
So while she tried out countless techniques, artistic strategies, tactics, materials and found objects in her paintings, Geraldine’s gotten more, not less experimental in her approach.
Instead of getting settled, stayed and stuck in her ways as time has flowed swiftly by, she’s continued to delight in her discoveries of what her oil paints can do.
In particular, it’s her colour palette that keeps getting bolder and brighter, her skies and seas more brazenly blue, her macaws more primarily red, yellow and turquoise green, and her bamboo shooting spikes more surreal in their uncanny hues.
It’s that delight that she hopes to share with friends and fans of Kenyan art throughout this weekend (from Friday through Sunday at 6pm) during her so-called swan song.
The one genuine constraint that Geraldine has had to face in recent times is the chemical effect of oil paints on her hands and nerve endings. She keeps working with her precious oils, despite her doctor’s advice. So it’s the paints themselves that may compel her to stop.
In the meantime, one saving grace in her Soul and Art show that one might easily not see since your eyes can get fixated on all the well-blended colour combinations, is the one exquisite linocut print of an early version of a ‘Tree of Life’.
The tree is a topic that Geraldine has returned to often over the years. But this single print reveals one enchanting way that the artist could find a path leading onto the next phase of her artistic career. It turns out she’s created a slew of delicate prints.
So if she chose to follow the print-making route, she’s be free from the health hazard inherent in oil paints while aligning herself a whole new generation of young Kenyan artists, including Dennis Muraguri, Peterson Kamwathi, John Silver Kimani, Anthony Wanjohi and many more.
In the meantime, Geraldine’s latest paintings occupy both her new studio-gallery space and the next door wood frame studio where she spends most of her time working with multiple paint tubes, brushes, canvases and papers as well as with resin, Swarovski crystals and other sundry ‘found objects’.
This weekend there will be a bonanza of paintings, both in the studios and in Geraldine’s house where all the walls are covered in artworks made in the recent past. And if you make it to Kibo Lane, you’ll have a chance to see gardens that should dispel the secret of where she gets a lot of her ultra-green inspiration.