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Saturday, December 13, 2008

When colour speaks


Colours, especially red, fascinate and inspire Ugandan painter Fidelis Nabukenya Matovu. “I believe much of the beauty of a painting is decided by colour,” she says.

This explains why her first solo exhibition is codenamed “Colour Speaks.” The exhibition that started on November 5 and ends today was organised in partnership with Alliance Française and Uganda Germany Cultural Society.

All the 22 colourful paintings on display are dominated by red, supported with a shade of white and black. These are paintings that start an inner dialogue with the viewer because the colours are arranged in such a complex yet lively way; the subjects look real yet not real, so you wonder how the painter did it.

It’s something she says she was able to achieve because her work philosophy is that for a painting to be complete, it must touch or move the viewer.

“Come my Beloved,” shows a group of people on a journey. Jesus is depicted in the top corner of the same painting with his benevolent face and open arms and the background is bright - symbolising the beauty in the after life.

“I was thinking of life after death; everybody dreams of going to a better place after death,” said the painter. From her own confession and by looking at her collection, Fidelis is a painter obsessed with hope, love, spirituality, life and death. So she tries, in her work, to capture her understanding of life and its secrets.

You can even tell by the title of her creations. “A Journey Well Travelled” was for example inspired by her deep thoughts on life and she wanted to pass on the simple message that “A life well lived is a journey well travelled.”

The interconnectivity of colours in her paintings and the way the painter distorts her figures yet still manages to achieve that naturalistic effect is in its own way symbolic of the mysteries of this bittersweet life that we lead.

Also, the exhibition shows the painter’s interest in women. But again, the world of womanhood is one she understands best. “I choose to paint women mostly because men tend to hide their feelings a lot and women are expressive and go through a lot,” she explains.

“Emerging Beauty” is a painting of an attractive woman and the backdrop is grim. The simple message behind the painting is that we should always settle for the beauty as opposed to the ugly things.

Another piece shows two curvaceous and wide-hipped women flaunting with pride what God gave them. It’s aptly titled “Showing Off”. Even “No Longer Prisoner”, one of her favourite paintings, shows a woman standing tall and firm.

“She has had a tough past but now she has conquered and is ready to move on,” said the painter, with a glint in her eyes. One distinctive feature about Fidelis’ work is that she concentrates on women’s head gears and their faces, often painting the lips red.

Fidel has all her life been searching for the meaning of life and in her art probes even more the meaning behind everything. And her paintings, though largely semi-abstract, have authentic human appeal.

They cost between Shs70,000 to Shs450,000 - a price she says is determined by the attachment she has over the painting, the message it conveys, the originality, not forgetting the materials used.

It’s interesting that Fidelis, who today is one of Uganda’s top painters, actually majored in sculpture at university.

--Sunday Monitor, November 23, 2008