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Artist Spotlight: Charlene Komuntale

Charlene Komuntale is an Ugandan painter who works to subvert the male gaze and celebrate womanhood in her paintings

Charlene Komuntale is an Ugandan painter who works to subvert the male gaze and celebrate womanhood in her paintings

Could you tell us more about your journey into painting?
I graduated from Limkokwing University, Malaysia in 2015 with a BA in Animation where I fell in love concept art and digital painting. I worked as a freelance artist in Uganda and immersed myself in portraiture and illustrations for both individuals and companies.

I enjoyed creating other people’s visions until 2021, when I joined ‘Silhouette Projects’, an art residency in Kampala under Afriart Gallery. Those three months allowed me to stop focusing on the desires of others and create works that I truly believed in. That’s where the “Not Fragile” series was born. It’s through this series that I truly understood the importance and the purpose of art, my paintings in particular.

I want my work to be an archive of the human experience, a visual song of remembrance. Through painting in this way we can see how every story is necessary, and in future years we can all marvel at how far humanity has come. They can become a guide for us to see the urgency in what needs to change.

How do your paintings intend to subvert the male gaze?
They do this by illuminating the female experience beyond the stereotypical views propagated by media, culture, religion. I acknowledge that these subjective views of women have been propagated by the patriarchal society that we live in, so I seek to recondition the viewer to see women as they are. I break these false and at many a times hyper-sexualised, damsel in distress depictions by re-examining intimacy, vulnerability, beauty and strength. The women in my work are portrayed as elegant, bold, present, comfortable in their rich melanin complexion and non “size zero” bodies. They are unrepentant.

Why have you chosen to cover the subjects faces?
For a long time, women have been seen and not heard. That unapologetic message “Not Fragile” on the open box doesn’t allow the viewer to get lost in her facial features, expressions or who she looks like. It instead brings attention to the subject’s voice, the echo of her heart and mind. I want her identity to be more than her face. It’s also very easy to disassociate yourself from the story in the painting when its someone else’s face, this surrealist style allows for the audience to see themselves and the countless women around them in the painting.

See more of Charlene’s work HERE

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