Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin presents Recycle, a new body of work produced in the past year by Ephrem Solomon. It’s a continuation of his ongoing exploration into nature, the effects of climate change, the human condition and the cycle of long-term transformations that occur as time passes. Solomon conceptualises the cosmos as ‘the origin of the universe and the meaning of human life in the vastness of space,’, at a time when notions of societal freedom, race, multiculturalism and nationhood are continuously being called into question. Regarding his new series, Solomon states; “I’m interested in the idea of cycles that take place within cultures and over extended periods of time. When we try to understand the cosmos, both as a way of system of thinking and our universe, they become a point of departure, both intellectually and physically. Our ability to unite the two provides a space where we can begin afresh with the comfort of the past.”’
Over the past few years Solomon has garnered recognition in Ethiopia as well as internationally for his striking two-dimensional woodcut and mixed-media paintings. Which are inspired by philosophical Amharic works and the everyday experiences of living and working in Addis-Ababa. The works of portraiture are characterised by figures with wide, almond-shaped eyes that often confront the viewer with a direct gaze. Solomon deftly introduces the notion of ‘reversal gazing’, which now sets apart his signatory portrait paintings. His masterful compositions made up of woodcuts and collage, create deeply moving portraits of the people he encounters in the everyday spaces; such as streets, markets or parties in Addis Ababa and beyond.
The distinctive carved marks on the surfaces of his works, imprint his figurative portrayals. These figures; as in his recent series Silence (2017), are deep in thought and oscillate between gazes of confrontation, dolefulness, hope, despair. Which are all indicative of human emotions and their many complexities. Whilst Solomon’s previous series such as ‘Silence’ commented on political history; his new body of work focusses on our relationship with nature, culture and socio-political questions. Due to the fact that people in positions of power are independently making decisions on behalf of entire communities. As with many of Solomon’s works; the new Recycle series will remain untitled, nevertheless his recurring motifs of butterflies and flies appear. Placed centrally next to human figures allude to all living beings functionality within an ecosystem and highlighting aspects that are usually overlooked but very present.
About the artist
Ephrem Solomon was born in Addis Ababa in 1983, he is part of a younger generation of Addis-Ababa based painters (Dawit Abebe, Tamrat Gezahegn and Surafel Amare) who all draw inspiration from the city they all live and work in and reinterpret Ethiopian narrative painting tradition for a contemporary audience.