opening May 16, 2018 (7-9 PM)
‘Grapes darken by looking at each other’ by Ermias Kifleyesus
‘Grapes darken by looking at each other’
by Ermias Kifleyesus
What does Doowylloh mean? Is Malevich there and not there? Archeology comes to mind, skeletons, masks, buildings, endangered leopards, a rhino, words, people… Ermias Kifleyesus’s art delivers relationships, meanings and mysteries with skilled perspectives through his paintings of contemporary life.
Kifleyesus’s new exhibition ‘Grapes darken by looking at each other’ provokes us to ask questions about the assumed narratives in our world through the compelling visual processes he delivers. Kifleyesus is accomplished artist with an acute appreciation of the role of philosophy in politics also for truth and consequences. In these paintings from 2017-2018 he creates and deconstructs images that allow us to investigate important questions about the human condition and the larger complexities of the world.
In this exhibition reality, location and power are destabilised into a timeless presence of somewhere and everywhere, the cross pollination of cultures collide not only in subject matter but also in the material application of paint on canvas. Some of Kifleyesus’s paintings feel like a glimpse into a moment before or after something important has happened. In Kifleyesus’s own words: “I try to give life to this disregarded space by starting from scratch”.
For example in the series ‘The Other Side of Death’ is the leopard dead? Are the people conservationists, part of a funeral procession honouring the leopard or do they plan to transform the animal’s pelt into fashionable handbags and shoes?
‘Burn Out’ shows Spiderman in each painting as the last person on the left of what might be a tug of war involving children.
By collaborating with the history of imagery from cave paintings, through religious icons, via Robert Rauschenberg, road signs and emojis, Kifleyesus uses a symphony of sensitive visual cultural triggers alerting viewers that they must carefully inspect and analyse his work. He does not offer answers but situations with indicative marks and notations.
Some of the canvases in this exhibition are sourced from Flea Markets then in his studio Kifleyesus disturbs, removes and over paints the original image in creative process with the unknown artist’s work. In this way Kifleyesus is a respectful borrower of existing concepts, found objects and ideas. His technique is poetic and playful, the narratives are literally inclusive yet Kifleyesus visually destabilises the arc and chronology of time. As he says ”I explore the flip side of paintings, this is true with my own work and the works I discover.
I’ m performing with the front and back of paintings engaging the places in between canvas, primer, oil paint and varnish by working with light in that uncharted territory. This process gives new life to forgotten spaces also my technique gives vision and voice to my ideas, heroes and idols”.
This art is not easy nor peaceful, this is profound demanding work that requires attention and yet has a delicate beauty in technique and the materiality of the canvases. The picture planes are at times graphically disruptive, seemingly casual, yet Kifleyesus’s mastery and respect for the importance of oil on canvas in this digital age has great urgency and power. Kifleyesus is a brave artist, he confronts and paints important subjects with skill and wit – like the grapes in the title of his exhibition he causes us to look at each other.
Daphne Warburg Astor