Stimulating artistic inquiry with Ronex’ Bags

By Dominic Muwanguzi

What is that? Is a dominant question that is often asked by Ronex Ahimbisibwe’s audience. To respond to the question, the artist instead creates art that provokes more artistic inquiry thereby stimulating artistic dialogue between himself the artist, artwork and audience.

The Exhibition titled Bags that opened recently at Afriart gallery in Kampala is a continuation of  the innovation, participation and interaction. The artist showcases bags in both small and big sizes with artworks emblazoned on their faces. Some of the images are abstract while others are semi-abstract with human figures and familiar motifs like the pair of fish wedged on canvas, the miniature human face parallel to the miniature standing human figure and the now popular KLA motif.

Bags with abstract motifs
Ronex Bags with abstract motifs on display at Afriart gallery. Image courtesy of Ronex Ahimbisibwe.

Working with such motif creates an aspect of familiarity and originality in his work. Anyone who has seen Ronex’s work before easily acquaint themselves with the work on display and wants to buy and collect it. In this regard, the bags cease to be mere objects but acquire an identity of a painting that can be collected and hanged in a living room or boardroom.

On the other hand, the artist fuses art with functionality to promote the idea of relevance in the contemporary visual arts. The bag adopts an identity of a fashion accessory worn to the office, lecture classes or social event. Subconsciously (the artist works in the subconscious) the bag and its art work become a moving exhibition.

Nevertheless, Ronex’s concept of displaying bags as artworks is not immune to the criticism of contemporary artists commodifying art. Displaying bags in an art gallery is a desecration of the moral beliefs of fine art, some critics may assert.

Ronnex artists and friends
The artist, Ronex ( first from left to right) poses with friends at the opening of the Exhibition. Image courtesy of Ronex Ahimbisibwe.

In his defense, Ronex says that the idea is justified by the series of experiments and research he has made to produce these bags.

“I do not produce any art before making any experiment or research. This work is a result of experiments I have been making for the past several months. People asking questions what is that and why I am doing it?” says Ronex.

Approaching criticism with a series of artwork is exceptionally intelligent and encourages more debate about the subject matter. Ronex is much inspired by these types of conversations around his art; they motivate him to create art that engages his audience into a myriad of questions. The result is the genesis of understanding what art is among the elite and non-elite.

In his previous exhibitions, the artist has used both non- traditional media and art forms like collage and digital art (technology in art) to stimulate dialogue among his audience. The outcome of such experimental displays has been a fusion of an intelligent visual discourse and inquiry into how artists can continuously engage the public through the adoption of ideas in their locale.

Guest accessorize Ronnex Bags
Guests to Ronex Exhibition accessorize the Bags. Image courtesy of the Ronald Ronex Ahimbisibwe

This exhibition continues to manifest the character and technique that define the practice of the artist. Using a simple technique of mono-print (the artist applies paint on a board, scribbles and paints on the surface of the bag)-a slight departure from his technique of fusing painting and sculpture famously labeled “Scupri”- he’s able to showcase his insatiable appetite for innovation and creativity.

While displaying such practice, the artist conjures the significance of pushing the boundaries of art while enduring the journey of defining what art is to the public. Such expedition, will not only yield more artistic projects for the artist but contribute also to the growth of the local art industry.

Ronex’s exhibition opened on 7th August 2015 at Afriart gallery located in Kamwokya, Kampala.