1974 · Ethiopia
Ermias Kifleyesus (b. 1974, Addis Ababa) lives and works in Brussels. He attended the Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design where he was taught by the influential painter Tadesse Mesfin. As a multidisciplinary artist, Kifleyesus uses a plethora of artistic techniques and media, ranging from large-scale paper collages, mixed-media canvas pieces and fresco-style murals, to video installations and intricate metal sculptures. By creating and deconstructing images, he allows us to investigate important questions about the human condition and the larger complexities of the world that occupy him.
Whilst the elaborate processes behind the creation of his canvasses is complicated and labour-intensive, Kifleyesus encourages the viewer to look beyond the surface at the real core of his artistic practice, the socio-economic motives that define the contours of our culture and society. Throughout his oeuvre, Kifleyesus has commented on contemporary society whilst at the same time shining a new light back on history. In works like Cascade of Knowledge, and Displacement 1 and 2, he alludes to historical events or characters that have imperatively determined the relations or power structures between Africa and Europe. In doing so he makes sure that events and narratives are being told from a different perspective and they do not just form a dusty fold in a history book.
Kifleyesus's mastery and respect for the importance of oil on canvas in this digital age has great urgency and power. One of his bodies of work, for example, features oil paint canvases acquired from second-hand traders from flea markets in Amsterdam. Many of these canvases were discarded, faded by the elements before finally gathering layers of dirt over time. Using a chemical adhesive mix applied with a thin cotton rag, Kifleyesus meticulously peels away the dirt, varnish and layers of paint. In his own words: "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; my technique gives vision and voice to my ideas, heroes and idols".
Ermias Kifleyesus has had several solo shows in Belgium, including Grapes Darken by Looking at Each Other, Kusseneers (2018), Changing World you are my Anchor, Brussels (2017), About People, Brussels (2016), Humidity and the Mystery of Traces (2014). He has also participated in a number of group shows, exhibited across Europe and Africa: Soft? Tactiele Dialogen, MoMu at Maurice Verbaet Center, (2018), Mural in Atelier M at The Foyer, Sint-Jans-Molenbeek Biennial of Dakar, Senegal (2018), You Don't Need an App to Experience the Real Thing, Art Brussels with Kusseneers Brussels, Belgium (2017), The Solo Project, Art Fair, Basel, Switzerland (2014), The Aldeburgh Beach South Lookout Project, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK (2014), A Show a Day Keeps High Cholesterol at Bay, Art Brussels, Belgium (2013), Found in Translation, Casino, Luxemburg (2011), Scholars House, Collaboration with Daphne Astor, London, UK (2005).