Peteros Ndunde: Layering until form is achieved
Peteros Ndunde is a Nairobi based fine artist who primarily uses ballpoint ink to create drawings and works on paper. In this exhibition, Ndunde continues his investigations into form through fragmentation, layering and repeated gestures.
Ndunde’s drawings straddle the precarious lines between art historical formalism —making reference to rigidity and structure in form— as well as experimentation. This balance between a drawing out from art history and his own interpretation allows the work space to breathe, where each gesture becomes an emblem for full expression.
The spine along which his practice is built is bound by two core principles; distillation and repetition where fracture, fragmentation and reconstruction result in totality. He succeeds in extracting the most essential aspects of form through a process of repetition and layering.
Ndunde notes; “In my creative process, I break things down with the intent of focusing on the most important aspect each piece conveys. The first break-down is decluttering the composition as a whole where I intentionally use negative space.” He elaborates; “I have to be repetitive with my line drawing technique. The process is purely layering strokes of lines until form is achieved. It is simple but labour intensive.”
Ndunde’s artistic practice can be read through medium, materials as well as technique, all of which make visible a sensibility that is drawn to clarity and compositional balance. Line and shadow are used to create fractured and disassembled figures with a suggestion towards cubism, particularly through the use of light, tone as well as a reduction of colour to a single hue at a time where reds, greens, blues and greys assert themselves against negative space.
The use of ballpoint pen ink adds to the reading of his work while also frustrating art historical readings of his work. This is particularly because the work lies within existing traditions of experimentation pioneered on by a long line and lineage of artists who continued to reject and complicate clear readings of art as purely painting and/or sculpture.
One such example is Korean-American artist Il Lee, who since the 1970s, has engaged in ballpoint inks to create large scale abstract work. Il Lee’s ballpoint ink drawings challenged and stretched both mediums of painting and drawing. Speaking on the ballpoint art of Il Lee, author Trent Morse points to him (alongside artists Alighiero Boetti and Jan Fabre) as the godfather of an intense study of new forms of art-making devices. In the same light, Ndunde’s art not only contributes to the medium of drawing but also challenges it.
Ndunde’s drawings resist allegorical readings and empty out overt symbolism. This emptying out of symbols leaves behind interesting structural images—aerobic and acrobatic figures that emerge, leap, bend, reach and land. They seductively root themselves between edges; at once uniform and intelligible while also remaining complex, elusive and opaque.
Viewed as deliberate sequences and arrangement of lines, Ndude’s figures are structured and controlled and yet they are still able to achieve a calming effect through musicality and rhythm. Perhaps this effect mirrors the artists own mental state when producing the work where regularity and reoccurrence result in mental ease.
Ndunde notes; “I get similar sentiments over time. Some presentations come naturally as I look at things such as how we take on fear subconsciously and consciously”. This is once again evident in how he chooses to title the works; Reach, Flight, Landing, Progression and Emergence—speaking to the psychological and physiological cycles of learning, achieving, moving, hoping, resting, dreaming and letting go.
What is interesting and perhaps even exciting is when artists are able to create outside of existing constraints and expectations of what art is or should be—that is to say, the ability to draw on old traditions while also being able to innovate and offer a full expression. This kind of unrestrained and unconstrained back and forth is what creates a meaningful dialogue between history, heritage and modern notions of art and art-making.