Critical Analysis of Patrick Mukabi and Xin Danwen's Nude Art

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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF PATRICK MUKABI AND XING DANWEN’S NUDE PIECES. When I first stumbled upon one of Danwen’s photographs, I was disgusted. How could anyone take a photo of a naked man with an overgrown bush of pubic hair, cooking? I was particularly disturbed by the fact that the food would be contaminated by his pubic hair. Despite the fact that the main aim of the photograph may be the food being cooked, one is inevitably distracted by the male genitalia that is partially covered by the cooking pot. But it got me thinking. Such a bold artist! Xing totally intrigued me with her eccentric photographs, visually disturbing and captivating at the same time. I come from a community where nakedness is taboo and Danwen took quite a bold step venturing into nude art. Coming from a conservative country herself, bound by the rules of Confucianism, she risked her reputation in a society where women are subordinated to men and confined to domestic roles of wives, mothers and daughters. Locally, Patrick Mukabi is another artist that captured my attention. During my observations of Mukabi’s works, I wondered if he was just another perverted male trying to bring attention to himself by painting naked women. Looking at Danwen’s works, I felt that she was strongly and boldly resisting the view of the female body under the male gaze whereas Mukabi, being a man himself, stated during one of our interviews that ‘I wanted to portray the woman in her most vulnerable state’. Could this mean that he would love to see the woman as his dependent? Where he, the painter is the master and she is a slave under his brush, even though for a few hours, to pose as he wishes, and exposed to the world through his view. ‘As an African man, I paint what pleases my eye [and] that is the round African woman’s body’ – upnairobi.com. I hope that by studying the works of these great avant-garde artists I will gain insight into why they chose to go into nude artworks despite their respective conservative environments in China and Kenya, and the different perspectives of men and women when working on nude figures. Brief Biography of Xing Danwen.

Danwen was born in the second year of the Cultural Revolution, 1967, in Xi’an, China. Both her parents were electrical engineers meaning that she was rarely exposed to art. In the 80’s however, she was one of 30 artists chosen from thousands to be in the Xian Academy of Fine Arts. There, she studied classical painting and sculpture, majoring in painting which she considered the highest art form. From 1989 to 1992 she studied in the Central Academy of Arts in Beijing. It was only after graduating from Beijing Central Academy of Arts did she gain interest in photography. Being exposed to crazy artists in the East Village(one of the earliest artist colonies), people who were not afraid to express themselves in whichever way they deemed fit, changed her perspective from being the observer, the ‘nice girl’ to a rebellious self-taught photographer. Through her lens, she observed humanity, female identity, the generation born during the Cultural Revolution and resisted the traditional views in the Chinese society. Brief Biography of Patrick Mukabi.

Mukabi was born on 9th October 1969 in Nairobi, Kenya. He attended The Kenya Polytechnic in Nairobi from 1989 to 1991 and graduated with a certificate in graphic design. He later returned to his first love, the fine arts. With his acrylic paints and canvas, he concentrates on the human figure. Patrick Mukabi’s subjects are based on everyday activities, focussing to a large extent on women. These are people he meets and see on daily bases either in the home setting or in activities they undertake i.e. in small business or by the road side. He tries to capture the positive aspects in life, as he feels that even though everyone has problems but we don’t walk around with them showing on our face. Sometimes the works are done in series for example the same subject and but different...
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