ABOUT THE ARTIST
Ugandan artist Benon Lutaaya (born 1985) holds a BFA with Education from the Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda. He presently lives and works in Johannesburg, which he considers home. Amongst many other accomplishments Lutaaya is a recipient of Ithuba Arts Fund grant (2011), International Resident Artist at the Bag Factory (2011) and was a finalist of the BBC World Service “My World” documentary global competition in London (2010). Artspace introduced Lutaaya to the general public when he participated in their 2012 New Voices exhibition. He is actively involved in a number of art projects in Johannesburg as well as different children charities.
Lutaaya finds inspiration in his own autobiographical life ex- periences utilising numerous issues as subject matter, such as identity, child hardship, homelessness, isolation and fear. His work depicts vulnerability and suggests a longing for protection. “The subjects I depict in my works are often my personal life encounters and experiences with homeless, abused children yet they are a reflection of my own identity. The use of my own eyes in most of my portraits symbolises my wish for these kids to see the world as I do. On the other hand, it also symbolises me, forming part of the subjects I choose to depict. A lot of my works are self-portraits in which I explore construction of my own identity.“
The artist manipulates his medium to unearth new and un- expected creative destinations, while exploring the fragility and resilience of his subjects. It is the essence of the human condition to feel emotion, and the challenge of the artist to portray it, something Lutaaya does with the utmost integri- ty. He aims to capture the innermost essence of the mind of his subjects. He wants his audience to not only see the work, but also to feel it. This body of work finds form in a series of expressive portraits that are informed by photo- graphic references, as well as paintings of cameras that em- phasise the integral part photography plays in his process.
Lutaaya composes numerous portraits, often referenced from photos of himself as a child, which he feels distorts and con- structs reality. “I construct these portraits from a few photographic images and from memory. The photographic images are merely references as I add my own realities, emotions, twists, movement and angles when constructing images".
The process and technique forms an integral part of Lutaaya’s art. Although figurative in form, technique remains a central focus of his work. He combines abstract and realist elements, as he be- lieves life contains both these elements: this creates an interest- ing tension. The portraits are constructed through expressive brush strokes, paint drippings and thick layers of paint and paper collage in earthy colour tones .At times the paper becomes a sub- stitute for paint. Similar to the re-use of certain images, recycled paper and other materials are an essential part of his process. “When I first started working as an artist in Uganda, without resources to buy paints, I used to pay homeless children to collect waste paper for me in return for small change – thus recycling waste paper. These children formed part of my process, just as I combine elements of them and me in my constructed portraits.”
2015 - "REVEAL", Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria - Illovo, Johannesburg.
2014 - 'Portrait of Self', World Art Gallery, Cape Town.
2014 - Marking the Map (Group exhibition), Lizamore Lizamore & Associates gallery, Johannesburg
2013 - ‘Transgression’ Lizamore & Associates gallery, Johannesburg
2013 - ‘Trails of infinite search’ The Lovell Gallery, Cape Town.
2012- ‘Beyond the Subject’ ROOM gallery, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.