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Grace Ndiritu
'I prefer using a static camera, because it's more like painting. This is not entertainment, like MTV; it's meant to be a bit more meaningful - more formal. GN.

Matisse's trip to Morocco in 1911 inspired in him a lasting love of African textiles; in painting after painting, he surrounds a female nude with vibrant patterns derived from exotic fabrics. In Still Life, a four screen 'video painting', Ndiritu pays homage to Matisse while, at the same time, achieving a twofold act of reclamation. As both artist and model, she transforms the female nude from a decorative object into an active subject and, as props, she uses the African textiles with which she grew up and which are therefore redolent of home (rather than of foreign climes).

The transition is not without complexity, though. Instead of full exposure, the artist either teases us with seductive glimpses or is completely swathed in material. In Still Life: Sitting Down Textiles she sits on a blue plastic chair in profile, wrapped like a mummy in blue cloth printed with orange flowers. Like Matisse's nudes, she is one element in a perfectly-balanced composition, consisting here of brown and blue muslin juxtaposed with green cotton patterned with swallows in flight. Yet, despite the beauty of the design, though, the image does not convey the langorous delight of Matisse's paintings since, beneath her wrappings, the model twitches like someone trying to escape confinement or bondage.

There she is again in Still Life: Lying Down Textiles reclining in the pose of a Matisse 'Odalisque' surrounded by lengths of vibrantly patterned cloth; her arm is visible but her head is covered and her heavy breathing suggests anxiety or claustrophobia. This state may be induced by the stillness required of a model or be indicative of the repressive circumstances imposed on many women in the third world. In both videos the shallow space in which she is confined and the silence of the piece make her seem stifled and muzzled. Both videos invert the colonial gaze, as it were; so that from the model's viewpoint, reality is revealed to be more constrained.

Meanwhile on the other screens, Ndiritu takes the intitiative. Standing hidden behind a length of cloth, she slowly caresses its edges; her hands glide hypnotically over the material and the body beneath, as though invoking an absent lover. Now she sits sandwiched between lengths of batik printed with a dramatic pattern whose spiky edges remind me of the vagina dentata of Freudian fears and fantasies. This time, the seduction is more brazen and seems directed at us; as she caresses her thighs, she exposes them to view - as though inviting our response. Repression and sexual freedom; in one sense they are opposites, but they also represent the twin stereotypes according to which non-western women are seen as either closeted or promiscuous. 'Still Life' sets up a dialogue between the two.

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