The immense representation of the feminine, the political and the cultural is very palpable and striking in Wangechi Mutu’s latest exhibition entitled Nguva na Nyoka (meaning “Siren and Serpents” in Swahili). Staying true to the title, her collage paintings are of grotesquely deformed underwater creatures which screams surrealism with the contrasting elements of humans, animals and machines. They also manifest hyperbolism and diversity through the way she forced together an overload of materials, themes and references which you don’t ordinarily see together. Despite the initial jarring sense that her works present, they are both seductive and eerie all at once.
The exhibition spans the two floors of Victoria Miro’s Gallery in London, showcasing the art works of this New York-based artist with Kenyan origins. Mutu uses a variety of media – mixing both textiles and art materials – to create her hybrid creatures with magazine cut-outs, watercolours, beads, feathers and fabrics. These distorted chimaeras do not only emulate the mythologic core of the exhibit’s theme, but their faces made up of big eyes and lips lifted from fashion magazines also satirise the stereotypes and preconceptions of women’s images and identities in the society.