Young artist to present debut show
Wendimagegn Gashaw, an emerging artist who makes his solo debut at Alliance Ethio-Française, recreates images of people in a realist style. After graduating from Entoto College last year, the 26-year-old artist has been creating portraiture, intimate close-ups of people that have spoken to him in some way. He says he is drawn to the unique features of faces and the story he glimpses behind them. Children working as shoeshine boy, lottery seller, schoolboys on their way back home, most of them from his neighborhood Ferensay Legasion, have been featured in his works. Like the shoe shine boy (above), idly and comfortably looking at the passersby. A man who seemed riddled with sadness – a former soldier –now loitering around in the vicinity. One of his works, photographed below, feature portrait of his mother and scenes of her humble bedside and walls plastered in old newspapers, and images of Jesus Christ and angles.
“It is about people that I see and meet every day, people related to me in one way or another,” he says. “I look at their eyes, their faces. You find those expressions in my paintings,” the artist explains. He and his mother still live in that part of Addis, not probably for long as the area is being readied to make way for a modern building. Yet the artistic works retain the story of these people thriving amidst contradictions and in the messiness of life. Their faces reveal myriad emotions, from hardship to endurance. Some of his characters have markedly large eyes, as if to indicate they peer into others life then their own.
Wendimagegn was born in 1985, and brought up in a Ferensay Legasion area, a poor but vibrant neighborhood. His mother brought him and his five siblings alone. One of his memoires as a child was gathering wood and sticks to stoke fires that his mother would use for cooking. As a child, his exposure to art was limited and he showed more interest in films than art. But after graduating from high school, a chance encounter with a group of artists who were making portraits of Bob Marley in 2009 to mark what would have been the singer’s 6oth birthday has an effect on him. “They were renting a house in our neighborhood. I was curiously looking at them. They gave me oil and I started copying by looking after them,” he recalls. That incident fired an artistic ambition and inspired him to join Abyssinia Art School, a private establishment from which he graduated after two years with a certificate. His teacher Worku Mamo has been a great inspiration. Wendimagegn has made a portrait of Worku, painted after an image by Tesfaye Atsbha, to convey his admiration for his mentor. After graduating from Abyssinia, he has also studied painting, graphic, sculpture at Entoto College for three years.
Today working as a full-time artist, Wendimagegn has found a means of expressing in pictures his observations of the surrounding world, of nature, everyday life, and his personal situation. He works at a rapid rate, transforming a blank canvas into a stark portrait with bold brush strokes and rich colors, working only from a small, rough sketch. He often elongates or deforms his subjects for effect. His work consists of pencil drawings, soft and chalk pastel. So far he has only participated in few group exhibitions. The Alliance curator after looking at his works in his studio, has given him a chance to present this solo debut, entitled “What I feel”. He will present 30 paintings, remarkable for a young artist who finished school only a year ago. The exhibition to open on September 29 and will last until October 10, 2011.