Wednesday 11th August

| BY Andrea Sacal

Ten Minutes with Artist Alfie Kungu, As He Launches His First Solo Exhibition, ‘Gap Tooth’

If you’ve ever wanted to be swallowed up whole by colourful, playful art that emits pure joy when you see it, then meet Alfie Kungu. He is the London-based artist living inside of his own playful little world, all while splattering it across satin and silk canvases at the same time. Kungo has worked with world-dominating brands and creatives including Nike, Vans and even Liam Hodges, but now is his own shining moment. 

Kungu’s long-awaited first solo exhibition is finally taking place. Titled Gap Tooth, the exhibition provides a look inside the artist’s technicoloured creative vision, with his bright-coloured brush stroke always at the forefront. The solo presentation is supported by Carhartt WIP and features both uncanny yet familiar characters in Kungu’s universe, ranging from swearing gummy bears to flying frogs and all of the playfulness you can imagine in between. 

This immersive body of work is not everything that Alfie Kungu has in store for us. To celebrate his first solo exhibition, Carhartt WIP is collaborating with the artist on a couple of limited-edition t-shirts showcasing Alfie’s eccentric characters. Village Books up in Leeds is next on Alfie’s collaborative list, coming together to publish a creative art book with tons of Alfie’s best work inside. 

Ahead of Gap Tooth’s opening, we caught up with the artist to talk about his creative process. 

In brief, can you explain what the Gap Tooth exhibition is about?

“Gap Tooth is a collection of silk paintings exploring the various sources of inspiration that form the content of my work. By putting together the eclectic and somewhat unconnected images, I began finding relations and commonality between each of them . It’s a way of unpacking what’s going on inside my head and sharing it with everyone. It’s like when you’re beginning to dream and your ideas, experiences and seemingly unrelated things start to connect and in the dream make sense. That’s how I see this series of paintings connecting with each other like a tangible lucidity.”

This is your first solo show. How long would you say it took to put together?

“I began making this work in early 2020 and haven’t stopped since. At the beginning of the year, I looked through all I’d made and it felt right to show this collection for my first solo show. I’ve had some great people around me that have helped make the show happen so with this support network its been an exciting process.”

How was putting on your own show different from your previous group shows?

“It’s been different because this time I have a large body of coherent work so I know they will all co-exist together naturally. Whereas group shows you are mixing with a number of different styles and personalities so your own individuality can be subdued from this. It’s a great opportunity to communicate and express my ideas with others.”

What themes/ideas does the exhibition explore?

“These works explore play, sensitivity and friendship. I see a lot of these paintings as windows, symbolising hope and acting as a portal of self reflection whilst expressing my passions and interests and memories. That being dancing with friends or spending time outdoors in nature.”

The exhibition sees a series of wacky characters which have often appeared in your work, like gummy bears etc. Why do you think you continue to return to these abstract depictions?

“I continue to return to these characters as that’s how I often see the world. It’s like a cartoon in the sense that there are all these characters everywhere. They are people I’ve met and also as myself exaggerate them, but that’s how I see things. They are also like an extended family and extension of myself, each time I make a new piece the family gets a new member. It’s a way of cataloguing memories too. So there’s a sense of familiarity and a growing understanding of these characters and their natures each time I make a new piece.”

You’ve also partnered with Village Books on an accompanying book for the exhibition, what can we expect inside?

“Yes, I’m really excited about the book which is also Called Gap Tooth. The book features photographs of the paintings beautifully shot by Francis Plummer, some interviews and it also is full of reference imagery giving insight into the artworks and my inspirations.”

How was it collaborating with Carhartt WIP on the limited-edition t-shirts?

“Working with Carhartt has been a brilliant process, when I was collaborating on the t-shirts it was really fun to see the art works displayed in a new format. I was pleased with how the artworks translated onto clothing, they maintained their same energy from when they were silk paintings. I think they worked so well because they are quite bold, playful and recognisable pieces. Overall, Carhartt has facilitated things brilliantly and enabled it to become what’s going to be a brilliant show.”

Gap Tooth will be on display on August 13-15 at Fitzroy House, Abbot Street in London. Shop the book here. 

@alfie.kungu