The pedigree of Naomi van Rampelberg is purely artistic. With a mother like sculptress Chelenge and a father like fine furniture maker Marc, one could hardly not expect Naomi to display an imaginative talent like what we saw last weekend at One Off Gallery in Nairobi where her third solo exhibition opened and is on until March 19.
Yet one has to wonder why she would entitle her show ‘Anxiety: My Muse’.
“I get antsy if I let a week go by without working on my art,” Naomi told the BDLife on the opening day of her show. “Drawing my circles gives me a peace of mind that nothing else can,” she added.
Yet something has dramatically changed since her last solo exhibition at One Off in 2019. That was just before the Covid-19 lockdown came and crashed much of the dynamism in the local art world’s thrust.
No longer is she painting on glass, painting in meticulous and delicately detailed designs on everything from wine goblets to glass chandeliers.
She has transferred all that attention to detail and refined focus from acrylic paint to pen and ink on paper.
Admitting that part of the switch had to do with the inaccessibility of art materials during the pandemic, Naomi was also prepared to make a change.
She had already begun to branch out and cultivate skills in ceramics, photography, and collage. She had even experimented with textile techniques, including knitting, which is a skill she learned from her Belgian grandmother as a child and is now developing it into a fine art.
This one you will see when you visit One Off and find that there is a whole room dedicated to Naomi’s textile art. In effect, it’s a textile installation in which she’s hung (from the ceiling to the floor) more than a dozen multi-coloured scarves.
Each is hand-knit by Naomi and each is rich in various hues, all blended in a riotous range of the colour wheel.
But as soothing as Naomi finds knitting, it’s the drawing of tiny circles (all similar in size to the dots she used to patiently paint on glass), that gives her the greatest feeling of relief.
Working with fine-coloured pens on paper, she finds a sense of fulfilment in blending colours and creating incredible designs.
“My art is therapeutic,” she says. “It has a calming effect on my whole being.”
What is fascinating about her drawings is that one sees the same intensity and attention to detail in her pen and ink on paper as in her glass art.
One might assume that it is easier to draw on paper than to paint on glass. But either way, Naomi sets such a high standard for herself that one can easily get lost in any one of her ink drawings because she has hit on what contemporary art is all about.
Her works may be called abstract, even conceptual. But what is ultimately appealing is the same delicately detailed alignment of lines and curves that somehow stay connected.
Often her shapes are geometric, but not necessarily. Otherwise, they can look like delicate embroidery, yet that’s an optical illusion.
There is one that looks exactly like a stained glass window, but of course, it is not. Finally, one has to marvel at the work she has done since one can hardly imagine one human being doing it by hand.
Several drawings could be deemed ‘feminist’ since they look exactly like fallopian tubes, shape-wise. They are displayed as a quartet, yet no one is exactly like another, especially colour- and texture-wise.
Naomi has a way of drawing that makes her colours come alive, often pulsating with the energy that she has infused in her art as she’s released her angst emotionally into specific works.
There are two that are bright pink and gold and veritably vibrate with life. They look like either the inside of a geode rock or the inside of a woman’s genitalia.
Either way, Naomi leaves her art to your imagination to interpret her intense drawings as you see fit.
What she has done is create abstract designs that expose the power of imagination that Naomi was given at birth.
What I appreciate so much about her current work is that it is far more accessible to the everyday person who may not understand the beauty of hand-painted glass, but can easily enjoy the marvellous drawings that anyone can find awesome and beautiful.