‘Line of Inquiry: Sediments of Self’ is Boniface Maina‘s take on self-psychoanalysis, digging deep into the dark recesses of the mind to reach its most vulnerable points. In subtle combinations of intricate black lines, shades of grey and coffee smudges, the auto-portraits of the artist explore various mental states and plunge the viewer in an imaginary vortex of emotions.
Melancholy doesn’t begin to describe it. Throughout the three rooms of the exhibition, visitors slowly take in the tortured figures as one would look into a mirror to contemplate one’s inner self. Along with the human characters depicted on the wall, disappearing edges force us out of our comfort zones; distorted limbs and heads twisted at impossible angles manifest the intimate workings of mental illness.
Using Freudian terminology, the titles delineate a type of classical psychoanalysis where the words have been replaced by paper, ink and coffee, giving a visual expression to modes of suffering that often defy language. The effect is immediate : a lingering unease, a flow of empathy. In ‘Anxiety 1’, a human figure is consumed by a dark ball located in the belly. Every inch of the body is tense, bending in places to keep on moving despite the strange menacing force. In the follow up – ‘Anxiety 2’ – we are propelled to yet a grimmer world. This time, the darkness has spilled out of the entrails to completely surround the character: the downfall is now inescapable.
Following Boniface Maina down this path of self–examination is a gripping experience tinged with surrealism. Although much more stripped down and raw than his earlier work, ‘Line of Inquiry’ retains a quality of movement, Maina’s trademark flowing bodies.
If you haven’t already, it’s worth checking out other artists coming out of BrushTu, which is probably one of the most dynamic and innovative art collectives in Nairobi at the moment.