The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End

September 30, 2008–April 5, 2009

Grace Ndiritu (British, b. 1976)

Seeing the Royal Academy exhibition Matisse: The Fabric of Dreams, His Art and His Textiles reaffirmed the similarity of our working process . . . we share the ritual of assembling textiles and setting up the studio with fabrics as a background to galvanize our artistic practice. Matisse understands and appreciates the beauty and simplicity of working with textiles. The hallucinogenic properties of overlapping patterns, shift and swell in his paintings, override perspective and divorce shape from color. His paintings appear to expand the viewer's eye and mind. . . . By wrapping my body within textiles I extend Matisse's methodology of transforming both the figure and patterns into a single pictorial plane. By loading patterns upon patterns . . . I also create and control tensions with the fabrics that provoke a transcendental experience.

—Grace Ndiritu (London, 2005)

Grace Ndiritu boldly relies on her own physical presence as the central agent of her evocative artistry. Her "handcrafted videos" are highly personal and introspective solo performances in front of a camera fixed on a tripod. Although Ndiritu studied textile art at the Winchester School of Art in the U.K., she was never interested in designing fabrics. Instead she came to exploit textiles as a meaningful vehicle for creative expression following journeys of self-discovery extending from the Himalayas to Iceland and from India to Mali. During those nomadic explorations she derived a basic level of personal security from a simple scarf that makes its appearance in her video The Nightingale.

Raised and based in Britain, Ndiritu's Kenyan heritage has instilled in her a lack of affiliation with any one place and a belief in the importance of obtaining an awareness of as broad a spectrum of experiences as possible. Her experiences outside the West have led her to reflect on the way that art elsewhere is more seamlessly a part of every day life, as in the way she found textiles to be integrated into Malian society. In drawing from that tradition, she has sought to manipulate textiles as vehicles for eliciting emotional responses and as objects of aesthetic contemplation in concert with the body. Among the international presentations of Ndiritu's work was a solo exhibition at the 2005 Venice Biennale.