New YorkTed Gahl: Lamu
Halsey McKay presents Lamu, a solo exhibition by Ted Gahl. Consisting of 8 x 10 inch paintings, the works presented were made in August of 2018 during the artist’s stay at the Tilleard Projects residency in Lamu, Kenya. The artist would like to thank Caroline Tilleard, Matt Tilleard, Alex Ebstein, Seth Adelsberger, Dickens Otieno, Buko, James, and Evans.
There are two towns: Lamu Town, which is a 20 minute walk, and Shela, which is a ten minute walk in the other direction. The colors and textures of the cities are a painter’s dream. The wildlife here is ever-present. Wherever you are, at any moment, there are about five flies on you. Then there are the ants, which are in your hair and literally, in your pants. There are snakes slithering through the garden, crickets as big as my index finger, and mantis-like bugs that look like twigs. Lizards scale the walls of my room, bats of all sizes hang from the trees, and large yellow spiders hide in corners. Stray cats and donkeys rule the island, roaming free as if there were no humans around.
There is a staff here of three people: Buko the chef, James the housekeeper, and Evans the gardener. We asked them what they do on their night off. They responded “we go to the dunes.”
So we followed them up a dark, long winding path into the hills. We came to a large hut, entered, and saw the chief at the head of the table, along with his entourage. We sat and said hello, and they brought us glasses that looked like lemonade. Turns out, it was palm wine, the African equivalent of moonshine. The taste was like nothing I’ve ever had, a mix of citrus with paint thinner. The group guzzled it down and laughed at our contorted faces after every small sip we managed to choke back.
The first night here, our hosts gave us no choice in going to the floating bar, it was like a rite of passage. About a five minute boat ride away, it is literally a bar just floating in the middle of the ocean. We get there by what people call “Lamu Uber”- long, slow boats that are the main mode of transportation on the island. The boats are beautiful, and the owners take pride in them, constantly putting fresh coats of paint on them during the day. Many of the boats have names on the side, some of my favorites include: “Rock n Roll”, “Cappuccino”, “Mr.Fish”, “I’ll Be Back”, and “Lady Gaga.”
We arrived in the pitch dark. We were welcomed by dancing locals, and two (possible) Navy seals. One was from South Carolina and loved my Grateful Dead hat. The venue is like something out of a movie. The bar bobs up and down with every wave, creaking like an old ship. There are no railings. One false step means you are in the soup. We have frequented the floating bar. Watching the sunset from here over Lamu is just perfect.
We are all steadily making work, which is good. Nobody seems to be hitting a wall in the studio,
even with so much beauty to be distracted by here. Every night we convene and sit on the terrace, overlooking the water, and watch the sun go down. Since we are on the equator, you can see the huge sun sink in what seems like real time. It’s gone completely in a few minutes, leaving a magnificient gradient in the sky.
We sit after dinner and trade stories, talk about art and movies, and even dip into politics. When the conversation runs out, we play Go Fish. We even got the guys who work here in on the game, and as soon as they got the hang of it, they became just as ruthless as the rest of us, resulting in a lot of boisterous laughter.
It’s nice without internet. Not even halfway through my stay, I see many comforts that I take for
granted: a consistently flushing toilet, a hot shower, glass window panes, a bottle of Coke, sturdy shoes, a pharmacy. People here sit by the water and smile at you. No one is rushing anywhere. We are happy to breathe, listen to the boats go by in the water, and see another sunset.
– Ted Gahl
Ted Gahl (b.1983) received his BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 2006 and his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island in 2010. Solo shows have been with Galleri Jacob Bjørn, Aarhus, DK; Nino Mier gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY; DODGE Gallery, New York, NY; Retrospective, Hudson, NY; and with Halsey McKay, East Hampton, NY. Group exhibitions include Freddy, Harris, NY; Rod Barton, London, UK; Romer Young Gallery, San Francisco, CA; V1, Copenhagen, DK, and The Journal, Brooklyn, NY. Gahl lives and works in the northwest corner of Connecticut.Courtesy of the artist and Halsey McKay Gallery, New York