GOODMAN GALLERY announced its representation of Chemu Ng’ok (b. 1989) last week. Ng’ok’s paintings and drawings feature abstracted figures and figurative forms entangled in a web of linework. The images explore the physical, psychological, and political aspects of the body and the complexities of human interaction, occupying space, and simply being.

“I am thrilled to be representing Chemu after eight years of being in conversation with her. Chemu’s exquisite process-based paintings are defined by a deeply intuitive approach to the bodily nature of mark-making, setting her apart as one of the next generation of important artists working today,” Goodman Gallery Owner and Director Liza Essers said.


Chemu Ng’ok. | Courtesy Goodman Gallery


Ng’ok was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where she lives and works. She earned an MFA at Rhodes University in Grahamstown (Makhanda), South Africa (2017) and the following year was included in “2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage” at the New Museum in New York.

An artist on the rise, she has been experiencing many firsts. “An Enigma” (2021) at CENTRAL FINE gallery in Miami Beach, Fla., and “Still Waters Run” (2022) at Matthew Brown Gallery in Los Angeles, were her first solo shows in those cities. Early this year, “An impression that may possibly last forever” (2023) at ICA Milano in Italy was her first institutional exhibition.

After being the focus of an online presentation at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London at the height of the pandemic in 2020, her first official solo exhibition in the UK was also her first with Goodman. “Chemu Ng’ok: The Longing” (June 1-Aug. 18), on view over the summer at Goodman’s London space, presented new paintings made during the artist’s residency at Gasworks.

Based in South Africa, Goodman also has locations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and New York, in addition to London. The gallery is representing Ng’ok in collaboration with CENTRAL FINE in Miami Beach.

“I feel like the body is such a fertile ground for contemplation, for ideas.”
— Chemu Ng’ok

“My practice is process-based. When I’m looking at a painting, I don’t really know how it’s going to end, so I just keep on painting and painting over time in terms of layers, colors, ideas, so the painting builds up on itself, trying to convey an emotion or idea onto the work. It’s longing for a certain moment that can’t really be captured. It’s a taste of something. It’s a craving,” Ng’ok said in video for her recent exhibition at Goodman.

“I think the body is a vulnerable space. It’s intimate, but at the same time it’s quite public, because you show the body to the world. It can contort. It can twist. It can jump. It can be still. So I feel like the body is such a fertile ground for contemplation, for ideas. There is the psychical part of the body, the skin, the tone, and also there is the psychological part of the body. What you see inside. How you feel, you know? Bodies occupy space and even bodies of color, black bodies, occupy space in a different way, depending on the geography of the place. You can look at it in terms of feminism. It’s just so wide and it’s so rich and I love it because I can paint it in a thousand different ways, you know, and express myself via the body. CT


Chemu Ng’ok walks through “The Longing,” her recent exhibition at Goodman Gallery in London, and explains her practice and her new body of work. | Video by Goodman Gallery


Chemu Ng’ok’s work is featured in “When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting,” the exhibition catalog published to accompany the expansive presentation featuring artists organized by Koyo Kouoh at Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa. “Songs for Sabotage: New Museum 2018 Triennial” documents the New York museum’s triennial exhibition featuring 26 artists and collectives, including Ng’ok.


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.