Fabian Mpagi (Ugandan, 1953–2002)
Untitled (The Piano Player), 1978
Signed ‘Fabian Mpagi ‘78’ (lower right)
Oil on hardboard
43 x 38 cm
Sold Ksh 657,440
Provenance: private collection of Klaus Betz
A fine draughtsman with an astute touch, Fabian Mpagi is recognised as one of Uganda’s most refined painters. The artist described the concerns of his practice in an interview with Wanjiku Nyachae in 1994: “My interest was in the universal concerns of man – both pleasure and pain – so I studied the hidden values of spiritual abstraction”.
His great ability to rouse atmosphere can be felt in this melancholic painting which allows the textural depths and timbres of sound, place and emotion to infiltrate into the painted surface.
After graduating from the Margaret Trowell School of Fine and Applied Arts in Kampala in 1976, Mpagi returned to the university as a postgraduate student and teaching assistant. In 1983 he received a scholarship to study in Florence, Italy. On his return, Mpagi went into political exile in Kenya, where he set up a studio and his artistic career flourished. He won the Habitat Art Competition in 1987 and was awarded a four-month artist residency in Paris. The following year Mpagi returned to Uganda and shortly became the director of the Nommo Gallery, which he eventually resigned in 1998, in order to devote time to his art.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lampert C, Havell J (eds). Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1995.