Evans Ngure, who calls himself a junk artist, sees the hidden potential in discarded materials.
If you’re a fan of The Iron Giant, then you remember Dean, the fatherly beatnik who turned trash into sculptures. We recently connected with a Kenyan artist who’s doing the same thing. His name is Evans Ngure, and he calls himself a junk artist. But contrary to what that descriptor may suggest, his assemblages and wearable works of art are treasured items found in private collections around the world.
Working with an assortment of discarded materials, Ngure creates eye-catching collages and installations inspired by nature. His recent solo exhibition, Irreplaceable, at the British Institute of Eastern Africa raised awareness of conservation of the natural world and its inhabitants.
Ngure shared his journey and inspirations as a junk artist.
What was your introduction to art?
My introduction to art was through my dad. He encouraged me to draw still-life images, like the family car and also cartoons from the newspaper. In addition, he brought home car magazines that I really drew inspiration from as, being in the early ’90s, the car boom had really hit Kenya and many parts of the continent.
It’s wonderful that your dad was so supportive. When did you start making junk art, and how did you progress to this point?
I have been making junk art since 2010 when still studying for my art degree. It began with a desire to add found objects to my paintings, and then it evolved into full-blown collages made from found objects. My work continues to develop, and now I am working on assemblage projects where I let the objects dictate the direction a project heads into.
What’s one of the biggest challenges of making your art?
That would be giving enough justice to these found objects. Being able to give them a different character from what they were before is always key, and at times I cannot fit an object into a certain story for so long. However, I believe that with this body of work I am developing, it goes a long way toward achieving that.
What’s the greatest reward of making your art?
The satisfaction when someone else can connect with it and make it their own.
Outside of making art, what are your everyday inspirations?
My inspiration comes from the daily happenings in society and nature.
Before we go, what’s one truth you’ve learned as an artist?
You have to have the courage to be an artist and to continue being one. There are things that only an artist can do, and that makes us have an amazing ability.
In a video interview, Ngure shared more of his inspirations and advice for artists:
You can keep up with Ngure’s artistic work, which also includes bold wearable pieces, on Instagram.