Artist Benon Lutaaya, who created complex portraits in paint, collage, and mixed media, has died, according to Room Gallery and Projects in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he worked as co-director. The enterprise did not provide information about the circumstances of his death.
Lutaaya’s works often feature faces and silhouettes of bodies, images informed by informed by the artist’s experiences of hardship and alienation. Among other venues, they were exhibited at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York in 2017 with Room Gallery and Projects, Lizamore & Associates gallery in Johannesburg, and Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Johannesburg.
Born in Uganda in 1985, Lutaaya was the founder and co-director of the Project Space arts organization, also in Johannesburg. The nonprofit’s Young Female Residency Award supports emerging women artists, of whom he once said, “They need to develop from within the system in a way to give them enough exposure to know what’s going on, to engage with the broader community, locally and globally. Once they do that, they became also great mentors for other young people they meet.”
Room Gallery and Projects said in a statement to ARTnews, “Benon was an incredibly humble individual and always optimistic and selfless in his approach to everything he did. There is a deep, deep void, now that he has left us. His memory and legacy will live forever.”