Two artists, one exhibition
An eventful exhibition, “Transitory”, showing experimental developments of two young Ethiopian artists, Ermias Mazengia and Eyob Kitaba, is on display at Lela Gallery. The exhibition, handsomely installed by the Addis-based French curator Leo Lefort, displays technically accomplished and dazzlingly colorful works. The title of this show, proposed by Eyob refers to the forms of the two artist’s transitory visions and exchange of thoughts, ideas, and concepts. Close friends for about twenty years, the artists say their relationship has been nurtured by continuous dialogues, interactions and fighting with ideas. Both grew up in the same area in Addis Ababa and studied at the Fine Arts of Addis Ababa University.
The desire to experiment and evolve is manifested in the works of the two artists. Both had shown their determination to experiment and not slavishly follow the tyranny of tight forms and exact lines. The combination of rich colors, deep tones and the occasional glitter add to the playful allure of their works. The show’s curator Leo says that in a very subtle alchemy, the works infuse a sense of poetry with the kaleidoscopes palettes, vivid stoke and refined textures. Conceptually, the paintings are intricate and there are no given narratives in their works.
Since Ermias’s graduation from art school in 2000, he has been immersed in Addis’s art scene. Most of his previous pictures then showed scenes and events of city life. But his style, characters have kept evolving and changing through the years. Essential influence in Ermias’s artistic development has been the late painter and graphic artist, Yohannes Gedamu. Ermias describes him as “someone who was like a teacher, a brother, a father, a friend. “ He said he learnt an enormous amount from the prolific late artist and he has taken up his spirit of thinking and free thoughts. “Look, this is a man who worked in a studio for forty years,” states Ermias.
Ermias says being an artist is his dream and he doesn’t have a second career choice. “After, all it is a good curse” he says. Ermias maintained that events in his personal life often affected the appearance of his painting, not of course, in an illustrational way, but in the tensions and clashes of the jostling marks on the canvass.One of his early works was a painting of a girl who was his lover during his struggles to affirm his artistic direction. “There is no lying in painting. You stand naked,” he says. There was a moment in his life where he was living from hand to mouth and gave up painting for a year, feeling that it was not taking him anywhere. But he said there is drive that keeps him going as painter. His development was stimulated in 2004 artist-in-residency program at Cape Town, where he spent rewarding months with two South African artists.
Eyob, who received a BFA in painting with distinction in 2006, has also rigorously explored the byways of formal possibilities in paintings, continually discovering freshened channels of artistic energy. “Painting should not be traditional. It rather should be a quest for new angle, new understanding,” he says. His favorite subjects are landscape and still-life. No matter his subject, Eyob captures it with warm, luminous realism.He paints from memory and sense, rather than from life.
In 2008, he collaborated in the construction of statuary of black bull of Zemen Bank and a year after, he constructed a memoriam monument of Ato Dugma Hunde, owner and founder of DH Geda building. Dugma’s statue has the form of a strong, naked, big footed and large handed man, looking slightly to the sky while trying to rotate a gear partially buried in the ground. These works began a tradition of the artist’s determination to combine a celebration of intense prosaic expression in art.
In the light of current work in abstract and of the increasing use of blue print, plastic mica, and other materials Eyob’s work looks intimate. His creative energy is instantly felt through his seemingly pulsating kaleidoscope-like designs and is built up sensitivity from layers of resonant color.His message, as in all his works, is open-ended, left to the interpretation of the viewer. For him, the material used could provide the means for an exploration. “The material by itself is a form. To understand the material is to understand the painting,” he explains
Eyob’s work has been exhibited widely in Ethiopia and abroad, including at the National Theatre, Goethe Institute, and Bastakya Art Fair in Dubai.
This series of collaboration runs until April 22, 2012
From ring road direction Jimma, take the first right after the Armed Forces Hospital (old Airport) on China Embassy/ Ghana Embassy/ Swedish Clinic road – go down, pass Ghana Embassy appox. 200 mtrs turn right and follow the LeLa sign.