An Artist with respect for tradition
An exhibit of Getachew Berhanu’s paintings reveals a reverence for his country’s culture and patrimony. Few artists have revealed traditional Ethiopian life and religious celebrations than Getachew, whose brilliantly colored, boldly painted works are on view at the Alliance Ethio-Francaises here in Addis.
The painter’s fifteenth show at the gallery is his strongest to date. And lives up to his reputation as a traditional painter.Since his debut show, one can see that Getachew has changed and has grown into mature artist. His works have become more powerful and the subject matter, more distinctive. The 36 works displayed at Alliance are characterized by vivid colors and fussily elaborated techniques.
Getachew says he likes the influence of traditional arts as opposed to the current extreme and morbid art coming out of some other countries, in the name of modernity.
That was a concept he mostly inherited from his father who was a traditional church painter, who has had also contacts with the foreign community, especially the French.
Getachew first started working under his father. As a child growing up in Asko area of Addis, he didn’t recall of being a great student at school. He says he often found his drawing more interesting than his class work. He made copies after his father.
After his father passed away while he was 19, old friends of his father like Jacques Bureau, head the French studies in Addis, encouraged him to pursue the trade and not to think of going to art school, which he obeyed.
Getachew still maintains the French connection and has been one of the groups who went to Harar on 150th anniversary of Arthur Rimbaud. He stayed there for a month, painting local scenes with thin, fluid application of bright color. Five of his works are the results of his trip there.
There are works that are fiercely political, like this titled “Goodbye Socialism”.
Some criticize Getachew’s works for thier ” too many characters” and saying they are crude and unrefined. Others say there are also repetitive works.
But few could deny the artist’s fine sense of color and atmosphere and the fact that it was a project undertaken in the spirit of reverence.
The exhibition continues at the Alliance Ethio-Francaise until February 13.