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Kioko’s distinct take on male figurative themes



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While Allan Kioko also creates female portraiture, he has recently been painting more male figurative images that review human relationships and express his personal experiences.

In his acrylic on canvas images, Kioko employs dark distinct outlines that stand out against his choice of subtle colours. Key facial features are properly emphasised but there is a lovely looseness to the way he delivers his illustrations. His proportions are also commendable.

The painting Omar’s Dream has the head of man with full lips looking up at a frog, and the face of a chubby-cheeked child attached to the top of his head. Kioko says the illustration is about fatherhood and that the frog symbolises the love of life, as evoked in the European fairy tale of the frog prince.

Putting aside the moral of the story about not judging based on externals, I was drawn to how Kioko captures deep reflection in the man’s face and the rather apathetic expression on the frog’s visage. But the child’s face feels superfluous to this drawing.

In another portrait called Sijai Juakali a dark-skinned young man with prominent cheek bones wears a bright orange, high-necked sweater that contrasts against a pale pink background. The young man’s eyes are half-closed and you notice the play of light on his ebony skin. Here Kioko is marvelling at the innovation of youth who dress stylishly even with limited resources.

A different look at the human anatomy is a painting showing a set of feet viewed from the underside. Thick black lines trace the soles of the feet that are coloured in warm reds and yellow. Again the proportions and fine details are admirable. Feet are an uncommon subject yet something feels familiar about these ones.

This painting is sadly connected to the traumatic death of Kioko’s father. When the family was asked to identify the body, the only part still intact and recognisable were the feet. “That would later inspire a series of paintings of feet named Flight. Feet to me are symbolic of movement,” he said.

Kioko is self-taught and his studio is based at the Dust Depot Art Studio in the Nairobi Railway Museum, a creative space that was started by veteran artist Patrick Mukabi to nurture young talent.

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