Tiwani Contemporary is pleased to present Confluence, a solo exhibition by Robel Temesgen, whose practice has been concerned with developing a visual language for the spiritual. In the current exhibition, Temesgen creates a convergence of seemingly disparate concepts, the spiritual and the political, which, on closer examination reveal themselves to be of equal importance. The exhibition is influenced by the occurrences of the 2016 Bishfto massacre, where an annual spiritual gathering by the Oromo people to celebrate their thanksgiving holiday, the Irreecha, in the sacred place Hora Harsadi, was soon appropriated by the people into an occasion for political protest. Temesgen takes his longstanding depiction and influence of Hora Harsadi, which often culminated in representations of a spiritual and mental landscape, and imagines the natural progression of the space as an occasion for necessary acts of activism.
In addition to his customary paintings and works on paper, Confluence sees an inclusion of handwritten newspapers that assist the confluence of the spiritual and the political. Due to the use of the specifically Ethiopian language Amharic in most publications, some readers will only understand some aspects of the project – that they are reading a newspaper and that the newspaper is handwritten – but will not understand the content of the form. As such, Temesgen detaches the subject matter from the form to the extent that the form becomes the content. The handwritten newspapers, and the broader exhibition, invite issues of access, the possibility for public gathering, and the need for a self-imposed censorship that is influenced by the fear of the state.
Born in 1987 in Ethiopia, Robel Temesgen received an MFA from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, University of Tromsø, Norway in 2015, and a BFA in Fine Art (Painting) from Addis Ababa University in 2010. He recently took part in the Junge Akademie Program of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, and was a resident artist at IASPIS, Stockholm, the Swedish Art Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual and Applied Arts. Temesgen’s work has been exhibited at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2017), Marabohparken, Stockholm (2017), the Hamber Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2016), Kurant Visningsrom, Tromsø (2015), Addis International Video Art Festival, Addis Ababa (2015), Art Future/Future Signs, Riga (2015), RomeAfrica Film Festival, Rome (2015), Lumen Festival, New York (2015), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2014) and Modern Art Museum/Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa (2013). He currently lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.