Dawit Abebe: "Quo Vadis?"

8 May - 3 June 2017







PRIVATE VIEW 6th of May 2017

3:00 - 7:00PM


8th of May – 3rd of June 2017


“What are the consequences of the journey that contemporary man has embarked on in the name of development, growth, transformation, urbanisation, industrialisation, and now globalisation? We are all striving for a pristine world where concrete jungles reign and human communication is mediated only through advanced technology.”

-Dawit Abebe


In Ethiopian artist Dawit Abebe’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, he investigates the impact of man’s actions vis-à-vis nature. Quo Vadis? (8th of May – 3rd of June 2017), at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, presents a new body of work, building on Abebe’s signature collage painting investigations of the devastating effects of urbanisation and industrial ‘progress’. 

With an interest in the realm of technology and its impact on human behaviour, Abebe has long examined the role that belief systems, as well as mankind's propensity to search for knowledge, have played on society – particularly in the fields of privacy, alienation and materiality. As technologies advance and develop to bigger and better levels of sophistication, Abebe's interest has lain in the impact these technologies have not only on the environment, but also on human behaviour. His large, colourful paintings have become recognisable for their iconic figures, painted in thick impasto with impressionist overtones, their backs turned to the viewer. These backs often carry on them the weight not just of personal, individual histories, but of collective history. 
Quo Vadis? marks a departure as much as it does a continuation. With its nod to previous series such as Background (2014), it turns its focus to environmental issues. Magnified insects hover around human torsos, symbolising all that nature represents in addition to man. “My current work is about the destruction and extinction of living organisms (whether small or big) in the name of modern life, peace and prosperity,” explains Abebe. He investigates disconnection and the ever-widening gap between man and our natural habitat. “Quo Vadis? is, above all, about a loss of equilibrium, deriving from sterilising and at the same time polluting mother earth,” he says. “Man creates his own tragedy by systematically divorcing himself from nature.” These works continue Abebe’s signature use of layering old school exercise books beneath acrylic paint to create a textured background. Recurrent elements such as car plates, archival letters and shadows symbolise man’s values and actions. Previously, Abebe has explored the ways in which rural communities (such as Ethiopia, Madagascar or Kenya) have been affected by advances in technology – predominantly as a signifier of wealth – and, in turn, the way it has impacted on behaviour. Ethiopia, like many developing countries, has struggled with the impact of technology and modernisation and its place within a long and rich local heritage and culture. It is the demarcation at which the two meet that interests Abebe. "The background, the past, always inflicts the present," he explains. "I am looking at how the essences of the present anticipate the future and how all such trajectories locate our existence in the world."

“Quo Vadis?” runs from 8th of May – 3rd of June 2017 at Kristin Hjellegjerde


Information for journalists:

About Dawit Abebe
Dawit Abebe, born in 1978, graduated from the Alle School of Fine Art and Design at Addis Ababa University with a diploma in painting, sculpture, graphics, photography and industrial design. In 2001, he founded the Habesha Art Studio in his native Ethiopia, where he continues to be a full-time artist-in-residence. In addition to numerous successful international exhibitions across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Abebe has also worked with charities such as UNICEF to hold workshops for street children in Arba Minch, Jinka and Addis Ababa. Solo exhibitions include Background 2 at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London (2015), Background 1 at Lela Gallery, Addis Ababa (2014), and X Privacy at the Alliance Ethio-Française, Addis Ababa (2012), while group exhibitions include major group show What about Africa?, Witteveen Visual Art Centre, Amsterdam (2016), Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America, Saatchi Gallery, London (2015), Concerning The Internal at Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi (2015), Visibles/Invisibles at Fondation Blachere, Apt (2015), the display of the Habesha Art Collection at the National Museum in Addis Ababa (2014), and the touring exhibition Silver Sea Cross-Ship (2013-14). In 2014, one of the works from Abebe's X Privacy series sold for double its estimate at a major auction of East African art in Nairobi, Kenya. His work is held in international private and public collections, including the Barjeel Art Foundation, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Frank Cohen Collection, the Carole Server and Oliver Frankel Collection, and the Saatchi Gallery Collection. Abebe continues to gain international recognition and was recently awarded the Chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters.


About Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

Kristin Hjellegjerde opened her gallery in south west London in June 2012 following her move from New York. Named one of the top 500 most influential galleries in the world by Blouin (2015), as well as independent gallery of the year by the Londonist (2014), Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery showcases cutting-edge contemporary art from emerging and established international artists, with the central concern being to create an intimate space in which artists can present a coherent body of work within a focused environment. Drawing on her own international background, Kristin Hjellegjerde seeks to discover and develop new talents by creating a platform through which they can be introduced to local and international audiences and by allowing for artistic exchange. Kristin Hjellegjerde also acts as an art advisor for both emerging private and corporate collectors. For more information, visit www.kristinhjellegjerde.com.


For further information and high-resolution images, please contact Kristin Hjellegjerde on kristin@kristinhjellegjerde.com