Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is pleased to present You Are Here, the first UK solo exhibition of US-based Kenyan artist Wangari Mathenge. The exhibition will draw on early memories and personal observation to address the diasporic experience of home and of establishing oneself at a distance from one’s cultural origin. You Are Here will also include the artist’s first large-scale installation. This work, incorporating Mathenge’s first stop-motion animation, will invite the viewer to step into the space of her paintings.
Mathenge will recreate a life-sized family living space from the 1970s, filling the room with retro furniture, books, and music. The installation will draw on the years Mathenge spent in London – she moved at just eight weeks old, living in Hampstead Garden Suburb while her father worked on assignment to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Mathenge will hang the room with paintings from The Expats, a series that responds to photographs from her childhood. Her stop-motion animation, each of the multiple frames comprising a mixed media drawing guiding the viewer through the scenes of the paintings, will be displayed within a vintage television. This body of work responds to Mawuna Remarque Koutin’s essay, “Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?” which demonstrates how two seemingly interchangeable words, expat and immigrant, are used as racial signifiers associated with perceived wealth or poverty. Describing her figures with loose, expressive brushstrokes, Mathenge’s tender depictions contradict hierarches created by language in relation to race, status, and wealth, calling into question words that perpetuate ‘otherness’.