Father and son display works
THE opening of a unique art exhibition was well received at Alliance Ethio Française on Monday, February 1. The exhibition by Tulu Guya and his son Bisrat Tulu features fifty three works of woodcut, mono and relief prints. It is the first father and son exhibition at the gallery, and the opening day was attended by a good number of art lovers. Senior artist Tulu who has already presented his works at the Alliance thirty eight years ago said on the occasion that it was a pleasure to come back to the gallery with his son.
Tulu’s early work was noted for its social commentary and use of his personal love of horse and trees to explore cultural and spiritual issues. In this exhibition, he also reexamined and updated the earlier concerns and motifs of his work, continuing to draw from memory. Born in Dallo near Debre Zeit in 1946, Tulu has had a connection to things of the earth natural to life on a farm that has influenced his work. His paintings are rooted in the soil, filled with images of the wild rural landscapes of his childhood.
Tulu went to Atse Libene Dingel School in Debre Zeit where he was very popular with his drawing ability. With the encouragements of his teachers, he joined the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts while he was at grade ten. At the art school, he learned to paint graphic arts under the German instructor Professor Hansen Bahia, and drawing, water color and perspective with Gebre Kristos Desta. Skunder Boghossian also taught him quick sketch and collage. Listening to his teachers, Tulu heard something that sparked his imagination. He has grasped methods of flowing lines, organic forms, balance of light and dark masses. Wendey Kindred, an American who taught him in his senior class also helped him in practical matters by giving him chisel rollers.
After five years of stay, Tulu has successfully completed his courses which also included sculpturing, industrial art design, history of art and art education. While in his final year at the art school, he put together an independent exhibit at the Belvedre Art Gallery (a gallery in Seba Deregja which was owned by the Armenians) in Addis Ababa. In 1970, he won second prize in Apollo Art Contest organized by the American Embassy in connection with man’s first landing on the moon. In the same year, he had organized a solo exhibit at City Hall in Addis Ababa, which was officially opened by Crown Prince Asfaw Wosen Haile Selassie. Tulu says it was a well-attended event and his compositions elicited immediate emotional reactions from viewers. His special ability in wood-cutting techniques has earned him with good reputation.
After graduating from the fine arts school, Tulu took a teaching position in Arsi. The fertile landscape of the area has inspired him but he has painted little then. “The teaching work has taken most of my time, I only did few sketches,” he recalls. For seven years, he taught art in various schools in Arsi and was awarded a certificate of merit for being an outstanding teacher at regional level. In 1977 he was transferred to Chilalao Awraja Pedagogical center to work as coordinator and in 1987 he moved to Addis to work as audio visual technician at Yekatit 66 Institute of political education.
In between those years, he has a couple of shows of his paintings. One important exhibit was in 1982 that he has presented with is two brothers, Lemma Guya and Asefa Guya at City Hall. The works reflected on aspect of Ethiopian tradition, like Akfai, a gift which is presented to Godfather. In 1991 he participated at a group exhibition at the National museum of Ethiopia. Some of his topics were specific to circumstances, but they often made telling statement about the world or about the ills of society in general. Many of his works were published as prints and posters, reproduced from his original paintings. The National Palace has used three of his works for New Year postcard in 2001, 2002 and 2003. His work was shown outside in Czechoslovakia and Lagos, Nigeria. Most of his wood cut prints, wood cut relief and mono prints are in Sweden, France, Germany, and USA. They could also be found in private art collector’s hand and the prominent business man Zubir Mohammed owns 50 of his works.
In the latest Alliance exhibition, pairing with his son, Tulu has come up with works that has preoccupied him over the years. Among his themes are Ashenda, a dancing celebration held annually in the northern parts of Ethiopia especially in Tigray and Wollo, which Tulu regards as one of the few Ethiopian culture that is still kept intact. “It is my way of recording that tradition and to express my wish to see it going long,” Tulu says. There is also scene from Tej bet, Ethiopian taverns. His son Bisrat who graduated from the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design in 2007 has displayed works of oil and acrylic, opaque brushwork and water-thin drips. Contrary to his father’s noir works, Bisrat’s paintings are bright and colorful. Following his father’s path, he had grown up with the Ethiopian view of nature, an intense awareness of the details of leaf, a flower.
The exhibition closes on February 11.
(Photo courtesy of Ayda from Alliance)