Seniority First : Fred Mutebi

14 Aug 2019

In most Ugandan Universities and Art Schools, there is one most feared course discipline called printmaking. It is feared because it requires an art student to sweat before producing a not so good piece of work. To demystify this fear, if you are an art student, art lover or collector interested in seeing the actual or learning how to do a perfect print, there is an opportunity for you to meet the Ugandan version of the 1480s legendary German woodcut printmaker Albrecht Durer. Fred Kato Mutebi s work is currently on the walls of Afri Art Gallery until the end of September. The Artist has over the years mastered the game of printmaking to the level of blinding and tempting an art critic to forget the formal rules of writing about the exhibition as a group show not a solo exhibition. My main reason for dwelling so much on Mutebis work is what everybody will see at the Gallery. In the Exhibition, Mutebis seven woodcut prints are carefully and professionally placed side by side with the ‘’Master Plate’’. A painstakingly cut out flat piece of wood bearing the linework and patterns of the images you see on the opposite coloured piece of work. Mutebis extensive range of mid-tones between light and dark produced using patterns and a combination of thick and thin lines enables him to play on the viewers' psychology to suggest light, shadows, texture and contrasts. It is clear testimony that Mutebis work is a clever and proven masterly of the artists' technique of applying seven to eight-layer after layer of different hues that define Africa from dark to light and vice versa Chiaroscuro style. This is what I expected when I first saw the invitation to attend an Exhibition of Ugandan Masters. For Art lovers who may not be familiar with the artistic language, the word Master in the visual arts does not mean an artist with a masters degree, Rather, it means an artist with complete knowledge or skill in the art. It refers to an artist who knows his medium and technique inside out, backwards, forwards and sideways. A master is always a high spirited artist who is often always more than willing to explain his methods, medium, tools and technique to others without reservation. In the contemporary context, a master is that artist who intentionally, consciously or unconsciously breaks all principles and elements but later uses advanced technical wizardry to reassemble them in a much personalized divine encounter with reality as it is. In order to understand the word ‘’Master’’ in the visual arts, we need to serve it to the different artistic cultures of the world in form of a party day cake. This way we will get feedback regarding tastes and preferences. The Renaissance Master Sandro Botticelli once said that the noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. Against that backdrop, Mutebis desire is to see to it that viewers receive the Joy of understanding his work. He explains his work with such intellectual clarity and wit linking the major theme in his work to Geopolitical dilemmas on the African Continent. Defiled and raped but still virgin! , abused, battered but still standing, ashamed and deformed but still shining. The artists understanding and explanation of the posts in postmodernism, postcolonial, neocolonialism and Africas efforts towards democracy left me in awe. In ‘’Omugole mu Bagole” ( A bride among Brides) you will see exactly what I am talking about. The Exhibition features Artworks by Five Ugandan Masters. According to Daudi Karungi the Art Director of Afriart Gallery, The exhibition is in defence to the widely held view that Ugandan Art is devoid of aesthetic principles and that Uganda has no masters. I have decided to write about each artist independently if I do not die in the next week ending September.

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