Kimberley Gundle

Kimberley Gundle

Kimberley Gundle
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

As a Londoner from Africa, the influence of Kimberley’s work is profoundly original as she observes the people in the vast capital, draws out their characters with the emphasis on the emotive and the world of an individual as they feel unobserved. She travels incognito taking trips on busses and tubes with her tiny sketchpad, and turns the drawings into sculptural little gems of characters. However with the abstract African thread running through, you feel you know the person, that you are looking at, as though you may have seen them before, as she sums up the life of living in a vast metropolis. The miniature sculptures are set on steel plinths, and borrowed from Dubuffet titled ‘Little statues of Precarious Life’. I first saw an exhibition of Kimberley’s work back in 2009, at her solo show entitled ‘A Slice of London’. Her London series of paintings exhibited at Art First, Cork Street, in trendy Elephant and Castle.  I remember looking at these paintings and thinking at first, these are views of a foreigner seeing London as some Londoners can’t.  Londoners believe they are progressive thinkers, yet Kimberley detects the ordinary in the everyday, illustrating the individual within the mundane of the commute and survival, combined with the traditional Londoner, orchestrated by a city trading on the tourist industry. This city life, juxtaposed with what is about to happen or what passes you by somewhat reminiscent of the film ‘Sliding doors’ with Gwyneth Paltrow.

artworks Kimberley Gundle
Little Statues of Precarious Life by Kimberley Gundle
artworks Kimberley Gundle
Little statues of Precarious Life by Kimberley Gundle
artworks Kimberley Gundle
Little statues of Precarious Life by Kimberley Gundle
Artwork by Kimberley Gundle
Platform, Slice of London, by Kimberley Gundle
Financial Times, Slice of London, by Kimberley Gundle

I first met Kimberley in primary school in Johannesburg South Africa, as friends we  played together, visiting each other’s homes after school. At the age of 12 we both went our separate ways, completely lost touch and never saw each other again until we both turned 47 and bumped into each other at a friend’s house in London. Hard to explain what that feels like to meet someone again that you remember only as a child. Slowly getting to know each all over again as a mature woman.I first met Kimberley in primary school in Johannesburg South Africa, as friends we played together, visiting each other’s homes after school.  At the age of 12 we both went our separate ways, completely lost touch and never saw each other again until we both turned 47 and bumped into each other at a friend’s house in London. Hard to explain what that feels like to meet someone again that you remember only as a child.  Slowly getting to know each all over again as a mature woman, whatever that means really.

Spare a Thought, Slice of London, by Kimberley Gundle
Pearly King, Slice of London, by Kimberley Gundle
Artwork art contemporary art photo portrait
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Kimberley moved to London in 1988 to do a Postgraduate in  painting at The Slade School of Art. She lives in London with her family, her studio overlooking the back of the garden.  Gundle’s home and studio invites an unparalleled feeling of escapism from grey city pavements and beige -washed walls, with an interior shaped by her artistic vision, swathed in intense colour and eclectic décor. The perfect backdrop for our photo shoot. We sit down at her kitchen table (which she designed and painted) sipping coffee and chatting before the  shoot. Then over lunch, I am updated about her work inspired by the Maasai tribes of Kenya  and Tanzania. 

Ceramics Sculpture artwork
Portraits of Maasai Women Ceramics Glazed by Kimberley Gundle
Artwork painting contemporary artist
Maasai Portraits by Kimberley Gundle

It had been almost a decade since Kimberley Gundle first encountered the Maasai, semi-nomadic pastoralists of East Africa. She continues to be captivated by the physical adornment of these bold and dignified people living a fragile existence in a changing world.  Gundle’s  first experience of the Maasai was during a charity hike across the Great Rift Valley in 2009, where she witnessed their struggle for survival during a terrible drought. Yet the women were magnificently adorned in their ornate beadwork and flowing cloth.  She has resided in many remote settlements, making drawings and taking photographs of Maasai communities in both Kenya and Tanzania,  absorbing their culture and tradition.  She explains how she feels like an anthropologist recording a culture and tradition, that is slowly being eroded by the changing world: some positive and some negative changes. 

Painting artwork artist Maasai
Maasai collection by Kimberley Gundle
Art sculpture artwork
Celebration of cultural adornment by Kimberley Gundle
Irregular ceramic Rift Valley Maasai by Kimberley Gundle

Physical adornment is integral to Maasai culture and tradition.  Kimberley celebrates the beauty of the Maasai.  The Victorian Art critic John Ruskin states “cameos are miniature sculptures.’’  In the cameo series Kimberley depicts each member of the Maasai community within this oval shape to reference historical miniature paintings.  Traditional cameos often depicted royalty, and could be presented within a locket.  The oval shaped portrait makes each work feel small and loved, a keepsake.  She wanted each portrait to feel special and preserved within the cameo; likened to a loved one, worn close to the skin, kept warm, shielded and protected.  Portrait miniatures reflected the social history of the times. Whilst her portraits may not be in miniature form they encapsulate the essence of the miniature.  Like a loved one, the existence of the Maasai people, their culture and tradition needs to be preserved, protected and cherished.  In October 2018, Kimberley will  be exhibiting a series of detailed bronze sculptures set onto reclaimed wood, the reclaimed wood having had a former life works well with the pieces as both have a story.

a series of detailed bronze sculptures set onto reclaimed wood,
Sculpture by Kimberley Gundle
Maasai drawing by Kimberley Gundle
Maasai Women on Lace by Kimberley Gundle

A percentage generated from the sale of all her work returns to the communities.  She has recently completed funding a water project bringing fresh water to 5000 in the Ololosokwan community in Tanzania. Kimberley has been invited to exhibit installations inspired by the Maasai at Palazzo Bembo during the Venice Biennale 2013, 2015 and 2017.  This year Kimberley Gundle will be having an exhibition at the end of October in London at the A&D gallery 51 Chiltern Street, London W1 6LU.  The sales generated from this exhibition will go to Enkiteng Lepa School in Kenya which Kimberley Gundle visited in June 2018.  This school provides education and a safe-haven for girls, rescuing them from FGM and protecting them from early marriage.  It was founded by Helen Nkuraiya.

minature sculpture contemporary art
Celebration of cultural of adornment by Kimberley Gundle

Kimberley majored in Psychology and Fine Art. After completing her postgraduate in Fine Art at Michaelis in Cape Town she moved to London for her Postgraduate at The Slade School of Art completed in 1990.  Kimberley has lived and worked in London ever since. Her work is a combination of both her understanding of the psychology of people and being an artist.  Figurative as opposed to abstract, colour and line is what matters she tells me.  As demonstrated in her series of paintings ‘Below the knee’ she explains the thoughts behind this concept to me “You cannot choose your face, but you can choose the shoes you wear.” These portraits are about lifting the lid of the letterbox revealing an intimate part of who we are.  She often has commissions by families who want their portraits done this way. 

artwork painting Maasai cake
Maasai Portrait by Kimberley Gundle

Her artwork extends to scarves and clothing printed with her works of the Maasai, and silk rugs colourfully designed with each commission almost as a portrait of her client’s character she once explained to me.  Kimberley reflects a strong work ethic and responsibility, extremely gracious and humble.  Mother of three girls and a marriage coming up to 30 years.  However when you meet her everything about her is progressive and colourful, she is constantly on the move, always creating, frequently traveling, open minded and stretching boundaries.

Artwork painting Maasai
Reflection on the preservation of the Maasai by Kimberley Gundle

She exhibits internationally. Recent exhibitions include: 

Discerning Eye, The Mall Galleries, London, England,  Zuleika Gallery, London,  Discerning Eye, The Mall Galleries, London, England, Collect International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design, Saatchi Gallery, London, Personal Structures Open Borders, Venice Biennale, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy, 2016  The Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London, England, 2016  SCOPE International Art Show, Candice Berman Gallery, Basel, Switzerland, 2017 Venice Biennale , Palazzo  Bembo, Head of Society German Ambassador’s Residence London, 2016 SCOPE Basel,  Johannesburg FNB art Fair, Discerning Eye London, 2015 Venice Biennale , Palazzo  Bembo2015,

Portrait photograph artist CAKE
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst
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