Jeff Wambugu was born in Kenya in 1975 – in Karura Location, Kiambu District – only a few miles/kms from Nairobi. In 1981 he joined Kirangari Primary School and in 1991 was admitted in Kamahuha Secondary school. In 1995 he completed his secondary school education.
After school he worked on the farm as well as learned landscaping. He knew his talents lie in something more creative and started sign writing. Jeff Wambugu later met some artists from whom he drew inspirations. His work reflects daily life. His favorite subjects are street life and market scenes – all that is happening around him.
Wambugu comes from a family of talent, with the Late Alex Mbugua as his brother. He also eventually found a family of fellow artists at Banana Hill, where he started to think about the value of his art, and where it can take him. Inspired by his brother’s passing in both emotional and spiritual ways, Wambugu continues to carry the torch in his family for artistry that is hoped to go on for more generations. More Bio Below.
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Jeff joined the Banana Hill Art Studio in 1999 where he got a lot of exposure under the stewardship of Shine Tani.
It was through Banana Hill Art Studio and Shine that Jeff attended his first workshop with the Kuona Trust in 1997.
When asked to comment about his work Jeff stated that he sees himself as a man trying to give hope to the society.
“I started off painting scenes from the bible; now I am busy trying to give inspiration and hope to the society through art. My work is a spiritual… spiritual something; it is like sad music. You are trying to reach people, to send a message to people. These are sad tunes; my work is a wailing against the things one sees all around like injustice and diseases. It is, like what I am having right now (pointing at his split upper lip from a recent mugging) – insecurity. My pieces do not depict these I use a hidden message and it is up to you to see what I am alluding to. I am not direct but indirect I am trying to console the people. I do not paint just for the sake of painting. I paint to give a message, a message of hope. There is a beauty expressed in the people I paint and their style, their good form, is a sense I try to celebrate with my viewers. That is why, like most artists, I paint women. It has to do with their contours and feelings.”
It is in the light of this that Jeff wants his Misty Morning viewed. There is a lot of white that Jeff uses to represent the hope and sadness. This the sum total of the things that constitute us not one or the other. There are three figures, two women and a man, emerging from the mists. The woman with a bent head expresses sorrow while the other represents the joy of life. The man, Jeff insists, represents a mood in between joy and sadness. A fourth mysterious figure, that can be a man or woman, is a personal mythical figure; someone giving them protection. Jeff gives different sides of the story of life in a symbolic form that can, hopefully, be summarized as Hope. The title is Misty Morning, Jeff says, because it is “something usable, some spiritual out flowing”.
Jeff’s women are not your regular dreamy male artists’ all curves and stuff. They are graceful rectangular blocks and at times not easy to differentiate from the men. Jeff says he is painting women expressing their beauty, their style and fashion and not for any wistful aesthetics.
Jeff’s preferred colours are white, just a little blue, a lot of yellow orchre and burnt sienna as used in this painting. He mixes his black from burnt sienna and blue and never uses black directly applied from the oil tube.
If people say that Jeff imitates Jak Katarikawe he is not too worried about it: “It is true”, he says, Jak is my mentor. The first time I went to Watatu Gallery what struck me most was the work of Jack. I like the way he uses white to harmonise his canvases and the way he uses his colours, is spiritual. I also like Michelangelo and Raphael.”