Both pop art & wooden graving
A solo exhibition by a German artist is on display at Alliance Ethio-Françasie. Klaus Mertens, who has lived in Addis for five years, is exhibiting works that he has created while he was in his home country and here in Ethiopia.
The exhibition features graphics episodes with images of landscape and portrait, combining elements of pop art and traditional wooden graving.
Among attendants at the opening night were students of Addis Ababa’s School of Fine Arts and Design where the artist is currently a faculty member. “He has a blend of skill, and imagination, that make him a great artist and a great teacher,” one student said.
On display are 30 works of wood cut, photographs and stool made of leather and rubber, which many of them represent his travel overseas.
The artist’s surroundings have provided the perfect backdrop for his latest series of abstract. The first work seen, “True to nature”, greets you when you enter the show: a wooden body, shaped like a tree branching out, which seem to imply birth and development. A meticulous body of constructed art, exploring rhythm, interval and volume.
The artist says he has been visiting locations around Ethiopia and composing images of diverse subjects. Among the works exhibited were photographs of fashion show contestants, dressed in elaborate clothes and covered in plastic bags that he has captured in Harar town last year. The works show the artist’s eye for affecting, humane moment, which he maximizes through a certain sense of composition.
Another work with the title, jungle fighter, is made by making thrilling transformations of domestic materials into what the artist called “an artificial emblem of civilization.” Cobbled together from bits of wood and fabric, the work renders a brutal and refreshing sentiment. “I see in it aggressiveness,” the artist says. The serenity and quite power of his art grew out of the struggle to blend African and European traditions.
Klaus says he started as an architect and he later turned to fine art as full time occupation and fascination.He has graduated as a master student at the class of Gerog Baslitz, UdK Berlin in 1991. His career took off with the subject of printing, he recalls. He produced large series of woodcuts, including woodcut tattoos which celebrate the human body.
Klaus has staged a number of solo and group exhibitions over the past decade, in Germany and Ethiopia. His mastery of the wood cut print technique is evident in the free and confident execution of the three ‘woodcut tattoo’ presented at Alliance. Each incident of color were passionately deliberated, and purposefully chosen.
The exhibition will be on display until June 30.