Onyis Martin, b. 1988

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Onyis Martin is Nairobi-based artist working in painting, sculpture, installation and, more recently, video. The main preoccupation in his work is contemporary urban environments and the ways in which our experiences within these spaces are shaped by politics of ownership and access, movement and displacement. In addition, his work also delves into the formation of individual and collective memory, and how this process is made visible. His investigations rely mainly on his personal experience to build up works that play on the often ambiguous boundaries social-political boundaries that guide our movement through the world. Martin creates compositions that approximate the contemporary urban wall, combining posters ripped/gathered from different parts of the city, graffiti, “official” notices and markers from public officials that are found in different zones. In a process that is alternately additive and reductive, Martin builds up surfaces which, and their final stage, can be read as records of the lives lived in the spaces that they reference. The text and imagery gives insight into the different claims to ownership that are made by different people moving through those spaces spaces – everything from imperatives on uses of the spaces, to adverts for spiritual solutions to marital woes, and city council notices about construction and demolitions. In these works we see how relationships and interactions, both (in) public and private, are informed by ideas of class, economic mobility, and how these govern access and ownership to the city. Martin is interested in how public spaces in Nairobi, while often heavily policed are rich in the information they hold about the functioning of the city.