Merikokeb Berhanu: Beneath the Surface: The Mysteries of Living and Dying

Addis Fine Art, London, United Kingdom
24 Apr 2019 - 11 May 2019

Merikokeb Berhanu, Untitled XLI, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Addis Fine Art.

Merikokeb Berhanu, Untitled XLI, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Addis Fine Art.

Addis Fine Art presents Beneath the Surface: The Mysteries of Living and Dying, Merikokeb Berhanu’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. The show will take place at the Addis Fine Art Project Space in London, opening on Tuesday 23 April from 6 – 9 PM, and on view from 24 April to 11 May 2019, Tues – Sun 12 – 6 PM.

Merikokeb Berhanu (b.1977) creates an aloof, almost subterranean atmosphere in her paintings. An array of life bearing forms, such as orange seed pods, embryos, fallopian tubes, and pulsing cells, appear set against a vibrant coloured background of predominately intense blues and greens, forming surreal yet earthly structures. Merikokeb makes much of the vertical ascent of saplings, plants bursting through the surface, as well as the forces that resist and suppress their efforts. Both growth and decay appear in equal measure: a flower climbs through a dense rock, if only to blossom and droop into the appreciative embrace of an exhausted and bonelike human figure. Her work at once appears to be a celebration of these life-bearing forms, as well as something more decidedly complex – in her words, “The life that we are passing through. The light, line, the complexity and density of what surrounds us, the thick fog and smoke, happiness and hope, misery and bliss.” She deeply communicates the visual equivalent of her feelings and thoughts, wanting the viewer to ‘hear’ the images through their own visual power.

Merikokeb was born in Addis Ababa, where she attended the Addis Ababa University Fine Arts and Design School. She graduated in 2002 with a focus on mural design. Engaging with a long and deeply rooted tradition of Ethiopian painting, Merikokeb’s works feature abstract forms and dense backgrounds, which interact with recurring organic symbols. Informed by the physical structures of Addis Ababa as well as the artist’s psychological musings, the rich imagery within these works renders a complex understanding of contemporary personal and collective life through all-encompassing, complex compositions.

She currently lives and works in Maryland, USA. She previously worked from the Nubia studio, which she set up with a group of fellow artists. Nubia studio is a dynamic cultural centre and studio space in the heart of Addis Ababa. Her work has been shown at numerous exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at the Ethiopian National Museum (2011), RedHill Art Gallery, Nairobi (2015) and Addis Fine Art Gallery (2016). Her group showings include the 1.54 African Art Fair, London (2016, 2015), Art of Ethiopia, Sheraton Addis, Addis Ababa (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), Art Lab Africa, Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town (2017, 2015), My Self Portrait, Asni Gallery, Addis Ababa (2011), and Ashara, Laphto Gallery, Addis Ababa (2013).




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