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  • "I use human form to explore the construction of identity in relation to race and individuality in a postcolonial African context. I also attempt to critique stereotypical depictions of black people, while I explore the conflicts and tensions between the ideologies of Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism."
    — Godwin Champs Namuyimba

    Introduction

     

    Godwin Champs Namuyimba was born in 1989 in Uganda—‘The Pearl of Africa’, where he continues to live and work. As an emerging Black artist, Namuyimba explores the construction of identity in relation to race and individuality, and through his oeuvre attempts to awaken complex racial and social issues that have been neglected in history.

     

    Having situated himself in Uganda, this young artist draws inspiration from everyday life, friends and family who are often depicted in relaxed settings, surrounded by symbols of domesticity and notable cultural signifiers. Through these figurative representations of reality, Namuyimba enriches and analyses the ways in which race informs the way we perceive each other and ourselves, and forms his narrative around the conflicts between the (post-colonial) ideologies of Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism. He evokes a modern style, whilst injecting within it a unique and contemporary undercurrent by inverting the racialised practice of art history, and instead reinserting Black art into an artistic movement where it was previously obscured and omitted.

     

    The Connector

     

    "I try to approach the subjects from a point of empathy when they enter my consciousness as fleeting characters or as vacant blanks. I am interested in what happens when the subject is transformed into the content."
    —Godwin Champs Namuyimba

     

    Namuyimba’s figurative oeuvre demonstrates a deft ability to bring intrigue to the quotidian, elevating much of the otherwise mundane scenes he creates. The Ugandan artist renders with tenderness the humanity that his subjects display, usually in their most vulnerable, humiliating, or even farcical moments. The faces of most of his anonymous subjects are ambiguous and even expressionless, only their eyes and lips are featured to express their underlying emotions and stories, leaving viewers intrigued about the lives of the protagonists and what that will mean to us—but alternatively also leaves room for imagination and self-insertion. It is within this alternating feeling of mystery but also affinity that Namuyimba finds the unintentional poetry at the basis for his works.

     

    In The Connector, a daily domestic scene is depicted: a woman is ironing a shirt at home. She seems relaxed and calm, depicted with a face without too many details and expressions displayed. This protagonist is placed right at the centre of the canvas, with an eye-catching backdrop decorated with various layers of solid and vibrant colours and vivid patterns. Instead of focusing on her task at hand, the woman looks on beyond the frame, seemingly absent-minded.

     

     

     

     Detail of the present work

     

     

    More symbols are strewn throughout the work: lying on the ground is a worn-out, abandoned plug in white, malfunctioning perhaps, and replaced by the same model but in a different colour, in black. This subtle contrast exemplifies the intent which defines the very heart of Namuyimba’s practice, mirroring the pursuit of abandoning the dominant white art world by including the presence of Black art, allowing it to co-exist and thrive in tandem alongside art and human history.

    Just as it is alluded to by the title, Namuyimba attempts to seek a connection between these two divided worlds. An iron in blue, with a colour symbolising freedom and peace, is deliberately used to connect to the black socket, a metaphor of hope and openness embraced. It is perhaps also not a coincidence that blue is evoked, in a veiled reference to the country’s colonial past. The artist demonstrates his humanity and dedicated intellectual pursuit for artists of colour, for his country, for Africa,  with a unique aesthetic inserted within the framework of a postcolonial narrative.

     

    Paving His Own Path

     

    Namuyimba attained a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from The Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda, and was greatly inspired by the Post-Impressionist French painter Paul Cézanne, who laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th Century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th Century. Namuyimba invokes the technique of Post Impressionism by deploying multiple layers in his painting, but alternatively also deliberately leaves unfinished portions, offering his viewers a chance to witness the gradual concretisation of colour forms and a step-by-step change to the intricate layers of his painting. According to the artist, ‘My paintings usually begin in the mind and they usually finish in the mind. The process on the canvas involves a lot of layering which makes my art work unique and attractive’.

     

     

     

    Paul Cézanne, The Card Players, 1890-1895

    Collection of Musée d'Orsay, Paris

     

    To the untrained eye, some of his perspectives may be dizzyingly misplaced, but these ad hoc stages also demonstrate the act of seeing, as if the viewers were there on the inside of his paintings looking around, up and down, from side to side. The artist attempts to remind us that the act of observation is never stationary. Seeing is forever changing and fleeting.

     

    The present work houses clues to the multi-layered sources from which the artist draws. Notably, two distinctive abstract paintings hanging on the wall behind the protagonist draws our attention for their likeness to the abstract styles of Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso, both eminent pioneers in the revolutionary abstract art movement. Their colour palettes and compositional forms profoundly influenced Namuyimba, a young artist who absorbed the freedom and spirit of the modernists, while deftly translating their language into his own style.

     

     

     

    Left: Wassily Kandinsky, Composition IV, 1911 
    Collection Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz 

    Right: Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Fish, 1923
    Collection Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford.  
    © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

     

     

    The act of seeing is thus key in Namuyimba’s works: a trait that gives visibility and representation to a bevy of characters that he has drawn from daily life, celebrating their comings and goings as notable moments. This act of elevating the everyman is akin to other Modern masters such as Edgar Degas or Pablo Picasso, both of whom coincidentally have produced scenes of women in the midst of their ironing tasks. While Degas was fascinated by the repetitive movements in a laundress’ skilled, labour-intensive daily motions (produced with flourish in A Woman Ironing), Picasso’s work, created during his seminal Blue period, is rendered with startling sensitivity, its melancholic palette bringing sympathy and candour to the plights of the working poor.   

     

     

     

     

     Left: Edgar Degas, A Woman Ironing, 1873 

    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Right: Pablo Picasso, Woman Ironing (La repasseuse), 1904

    Collection of the Guggenheim Museum, New York
     © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

     

     

     

    The artist’s shedding light onto the lives of the common man is paramount—after all, art history was for a long period dominated by unrealistic scenes of wealth and splendour. Within the context of an artist of colour, Namuyimba also normalises domesticity without misrepresenting or even exoticising Black bodies as caricatures within his works. In this aspect he joins artists such as William H. Johnson, the great American post-war artist who has also inspired the likes of Mickalene Thomas (see for example, Lot 52 - Mickalene Thomas, Looking Up from the She Works Hard For the Money Pin-Up series (2004)) with his artistic representation of his journeys and the people in his environment. From a more contemporary point of view, he also joins figures such Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Toyin Ojih Odutola, both of whose oeuvres include intimate portraits of daily life.

     

     

     

     

    William H. Johnson, Woman Ironing, 1944

    Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington

     

     

    The Artist in Conversation

     

    In April 2019, Godwin Namuyimba was interviewed by Maria Vogel. Below is an extract from ‘Godwin Namuyimba Deconstructs the Elements of Identity’

    Maria Vogel: Who are the figures in your paintings?


    Godwin Namuyimba: The figures in my paintings are my Black friends and friends of friends.

     

    MV: Your work seems to have an element of social commentary. What are some themes you are exploring?


    GN: I use human form to explore the construction of identity in relation to race and individuality in a postcolonial African context. I also attempt to critique stereotypical depictions of Black people, while I explore the conflicts and tensions between the ideologies of Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism.

    MV: As a Black contemporary visual artist, have you seen the art landscape change for artists of colour?


    GN: It’s a process that has endured progress for a time but still a lot has to be done for the better of us and artists that are to come after us.

     

    MV: What is your process like? How do you begin a painting?


    GN: My paintings usually begin in the mind and they usually finish in the mind. The process on the canvas involves a lot of layering which makes my art work unique and attractive.

     

    Read the full interview here.

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    As a young artist, Namuyimba’s work has been part of numerous public collections worldwide, including The W Art Foundation in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Qingdao; The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg; Örebro City Library in Sweden; and The Bunker Art Space, Beth Rudin de Woody Collection in West Palm Beach, USA.  Several of his solo exhibitions have been held including: ‘The Dreamer’, Galleri Steinsland & Berliner Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden (2019); 'Godwin Champs Namuyimba', Ars Belga, Brussels, Belgium (2021), and ‘Antechamer’, East-Projects, New York, USA (2021).

     

    Namuyimba’s striking authenticity and his unique spin on so-called mundanity has caught the attention of the art world. Recently Destiny (2019) achieved an impressive auction world record of US$107,100 against pre-auction estimates of US$8,000-12,000 by Phillips New York in June 2021.

     

     

     

     

    Godwin Champs Namuyimba, Destiny, 2019 

    Sold by Phillips New York on 24 June 2021 for US$107,100

Property from a Private Belgian Collection

54

The Connector

signed, titled and dated on the reverse
acrylic and mixed media on canvas
200 x 148 cm. (78 3/4 x 58 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2021.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$200,000 - 400,000 
€22,700-45,500
$25,600-51,300

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021