Chemu Ng’ok's painting practice explores the power dynamics of human interaction and visualises its effects on the psyche. Across her canvases girls braid each other’s hair, men shake hands, and crowds gather and jostle against one another. These bodies multiply in number and shift in scale, simultaneously solidifying and dissolving. She paints using bold swathes of colour, thin washes of paint, and wavering fine lines that characterises her forms with a restlessness that suggests the permeable line between public and private modes of existence.
The artist draws on her personal experience as a black, Kenyan woman, as well as the broader political landscape in Kenya and South Africa, two countries she considers home. Negotiating multiple identities, she considers how to create agency within societal structures. Ng'ok's exploration of power, as manifested in government politics, community movements and intimate relationships, is rooted in the reality of a post-colonial society, with her early work informed by the student protests and Rhodes Must Fall movement that coincided with her studies at Rhodes University.
Ng'ok was included in Pippy Houldsworth Gallery's 2020 Insight project, an online viewing platform that debuted new works by fifteen artists, all produced during lockdown. Click below to view Chemu Ng'ok's Insight page.