Lulseged Retta: Meklit

Addis Fine Art Gallery, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
21 Sep 2019 - 09 Nov 2019

Lulseged Retta, 'Celebration', 2017, 60 x 180 cm

Lulseged Retta, 'Celebration', 2017, 60 x 180 cm

Addis Fine Art presents Lulseged Retta’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The show will take place at the Addis Fine Art Gallery in Addis Ababa, opening on Saturday 21 September from 6 – 9 PM, and on view from Monday 23 September – 9 November from 10 am – 1 pm & 2 – 6 pm.

Lulseged Retta (b. 1952) is one of Ethiopia’s preeminent modernist painters. His work amalgamates and reimagines traditional Ethiopian artistic themes and modernists styles, harmoniously coalesced for a contemporary audience. Retta’s paintings are informed by a multitude of influences, including Ethiopian Orthodox Church art, his love of music (which he infuses rhythmically into his compositions), and his interpretation of Ethiopia’s rich cultural history.

Retta’s first source of inspiration came from Orthodox church paintings and the works of Gebrekristos Desta and Afework Tekle. Now, Retta’s distinctively Ethiopian paintings have come to define modern Ethiopian art. His works offer layers of meaning, offering simple aesthetic pleasures to the uninitiated eye and a deeply complex philosophical perspective to those familiar with his style. These works require analysis, revealing the landscape, culture and history that have come to influence him over the years.

Retta has worked hard for several decades offering his own interpretation of beauty through his own unique artistic viewpoint. He has delved into his own identity and the history of Ethiopia in order to create these pieces which convey a critical perspective on what it means to be Ethiopian. Ethiopian themes and African patterns are apparent in his portraits, musical pieces, paintings depicting daily activities and works of a philosophical nature. His works have an air of affluence to them stemming from the colors that enhance the viewer’s experience; creating a connection to a deeply wealthy and culturally saturated past.

Retta’s love of music informs his style which he rhythmically infuses into his artistic compositions. This is all the more evident in his rich color palette and the rhythms found in his painterly formations. The long necked female figures with the simultaneously telling and mysterious eyes set against vibrant, almost magical backgrounds fixate the viewers gaze. They glance down demurely, secretively, occasionally looking up to declare immutable truths to the audience.

Retta attended Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts before graduating with a diploma and moving to the then USSR in the 1980s in order to complete an MFA at the Academy of Art Repina (now modern-day St Petersburg). He has since become one of Ethiopia’s most prolific painters, exhibiting in cities across the world including: New York, Geneva, Cairo, Osaka, and Djibouti.