SoShiro is an art, craft and design gallery encompassing five floors of a beautiful Georgian townhouse in Marylebone London. The space is a 360-degree cultural hub that not only produces, curates and showcases collections inspired by global cultures but also acts as a creative incubator and event space. SoShiro is the brainchild of Shiro Muchiri; a Kenyan-born, Italian-trained interior architect, designer, curator and tastemaker.
The contemporary works on show in Welding Cultures are created by a culturally wide range of emerging and established artists. fifteen artists from five different continents reveal how similarly we use our collective human heritage to express our stories and experiences. The exploration of cross-cultural expression is more important now than ever, as we currently face travel restrictions and are unable to experience other cultures directly ourselves. The exhibition runs from 2nd June until 30th July 2021.
Pitshou Botulu Mbuli
We, Ourselves & Us:
Chris Day, an emerging British glass and mixed media artist, spent more than two decades working as a self-employed plumber before embarking on his creative career. Day’s work is deeply personal and created in response to his own conflicting feelings of belonging as a man of mixed-race. Day comments, “As a black glassblower, I am one of few and on a quest to find and inspire more. My main purpose, however, is to engage the audience on issues that are hard to confront on many levels, using art to help overcome some of the traumas that haunt our collective past.” Day’s exhibited work Socially Isolated (2020) is a piece of handblown fragile glass that sits within a resilient copper cage. The cage, a signature in Day’s work, represents the restriction of physical and mental movement and echoes back the 18th Century slave trade, when traders reduced human lives to commodities. The glass represents the human spirit, attempting to break free from the restrictions that hold it in place. The ensnared glass bubble and copper cage are imperfect, restrictive and distorted, a conscious acknowledgement of confronting the subject matter visually. The work was created during lockdown, when our fragile bodies were trapped indoors, and our survival was dependant on resilience.
Four Seasons is a sculpture created from steel and melted recycled red plastic bottle caps created by Pitshou Botulu Mbuli, a visual artist who lives and works in Kinshasa (DR of the Congo). The work is from a four-part series, with counterparts in green, blue, and marbled black and white. Melted plastic bottle caps have been moulded into figurate sculptures with a classical aesthetic. Four Seasons highlights cross-cultural topical issues, including climate change and mass plastic consumption, and reminds us that resilient plastic is causing the earth to become increasingly fragile. The destructive nature of plastic cap waste is an intriguing antithesis to the fertile female forms referencing nature and the seasons.
London-based Nigerian-born artist Vanessa Endeley has presented three photographs. Endeley’s work often combats social issues and addresses the injustices faced by Nigerian women, such as educational battles, women’s health, and the dehumanization/safety of sex workers. Her two exhibited works are from the 2021 OGADINMA series, which translates as “it will be well” in the Igbo language. Endeley comments, “2020 was a rough year for everyone and for different reasons. I embarked on creating this series as an outlet for my personal healing, drawing strength an inspiration from some astounding women around me.” Endeley’s portraits are characterised by their vibrant colours and swirling patterns. A running motif across her portraits is the obscuring of the sitter’s eyes, which denies access to the identity of the sitter and alludes to an intimate and exclusive relation between the artist and sitter. The women are portrayed as empowered and resilient figures. Endeley uses photoshop and other digital interventions to obscure and texturize her portraits.
British Indian artist Nandita Chaudhuri is exhibiting three collages from her Kitsch series. Having spent her early years in India before moving to the UK, Chaudhuri’s works have a distinct transnational context and are themed around the feeling of displacement and memory. Chaudhuri says, “My works explore and reengage with various deep impressions and stored images snatched from life. Instances and nuances have been greedily devoured and etched into stored imprints and now they must find their way somehow into legible or illegible forms. They are gathered together as memories—fleeting, hiding and staring, as they rush to emote through brush and paint.” Chaudhuri’s works appear fragile, with broken objects and pieces ripped from newspapers scattered across the canvas. Painted lines, like tangled thread, are scratched into the canvas linking various household paraphernalia, from electrical circuits, to steel wool, and decorative beads. Untitled (2020) features a bold staring eye, indicating thought, perception, and the questioning of identity.
Eghosa Raymond Akenbor creates dynamic and experimental works influenced by his environment in Benin, Nigeria. His work is vibrant in colour and often incorporates found objects and fabrics to illustrate the brilliance of Urban Africa. Eghosa says, “My society is diversified with cultures, languages (over 525 languages and 250 ethnic group), religious believes, political ideology and diverse geographical location… the diversified nature of my society is so beautiful and interesting; it inspires every aspect of art from fashion, music, drama, crafts and much more.” Over the years, each society has been able to maintain its uniqueness through its own resilience and solidarity. Beauty in Diversity, a duo of mixed-media canvases, use various sized floating collaged fabrics and photos to create a sense of bustling urbanism. The collaged shapes, applied freely by hand, are inspired by circular fabric African earrings and necklace pebbles and diamonds. Photographs cut out of western magazines and calendars connect Africa with the Western world.
San Francisco based Klari Reis is inspired by scientific and creative processes, especially biological techniques, and discoveries. Her work is defined by the use of ultra-glossy, industrial, and chemical materials, including new media plastics, epoxy polymer and resins. Hypochondria Exploding 2020 is part of a series of 60 brightly coloured hand painted petri dish paintings. The painting’s title reflects a sense of health anxiety, particularly shaped by the pandemic. This is contrasted by an overall playful myriad of colourful dishes. The petri dishes, which are seen from above, appear as beautiful objects rather than something to be feared. The circular dishes, with their swirling colours, appear globe-like and remind us of the transnational medical issues we face and our collective resilience.
Matturi Fine Jewellery, created by British West-African designer Satta Matturi, will show pieces from its third collection Whispers of Meroë. The luxurious jewels are an ode to the lost Nubian Kingdom of Kush and its stories of female power, resilience, and lost opulence during Ancient Egyptian times. The collection celebrates its bold Queens with rich textured gold, enamel layering and custom-cut gems. Inspired by the culture, temples and pyramids discovered at the Nubian capital of Meroë, the collection has adopted a deconstructed Art-Deco style, using linear forms in rich 18ct yellow and white gold. Ethically sourced triangular-cut and round brilliant diamonds, black onyx discs, soft pastel morganites, deep red rhodolite and lustrous golden pearls reflect the colours of the landscapes along the upper Nile delta. Each piece is stamped with the Eye of Horus, which symbolises protection, royal power, and good health to the wearer.
Whispers of Meroë
Eurivaldo Bezerra, born in Rio de Janeiro, and has been influenced by the city’s cultural vibrancy, its people and its environment. Central to Bezerra’s ethos is how art and photography engage people, whether it be its beauty, invocation of wonder and feelings, and the relationship between himself as a photographer and the viewer. A series of Bezerra’s hand photographs are included within Welding Cultures. The hands, full of lines and wrinkles, appear tough and resilient but also seem so delicate, and the lifeline reminds us that life can be fragile. These works are an important reminder of how our hands connect ourselves to the world and other people. Bezerra believes “life flows through our hands” and has explored the ways our hands are instigators of healing through practices of reiki and massage. During the pandemic, we have been disallowed touch and connection, something so natural to us as humans.
Pitshou Botulu Mbuli
Eghosa Raymond Akenbor
Cynthia Corbett Gallery
Michael Hoppen Gallery