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Tegene Kunbi and Robel Temesgen: RE:PUBLIC

Tegene Kunbi and Robel Temesgen: RE:PUBLIC

Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi is pleased to present RE:PUBLIC, a joint exhibition curated by Wanja Kimani featuring Ethiopian artists Tegene Kunbi and Robel Temesgen, both exhibiting in Nairobi for the first time.

Robel Temesgen explores the material quality of jebena (Ethiopian coffee pots) as a way of interrogating the socio-political landscape in Ethiopia. Boundaries and dysfunction, control and containment are depicted through delicate paintings and deconstructed ceramics. Taking the jebena as a starting point, Temesgen distorts and embellishes colours and patterns to create dreamlike imagery that is at times unrecognisable from their original state. The paintings, often showing jebenas leaning over, are the artist’s reflections on the unstable ground Ethiopia finds itself in presently. Rapid urban development, the effects of smart technology and the growing digital economy leads us to question the transformative position we find ourselves in individually and geopolitically.

Tegene Kunbi’s abstract paintings further explore this state of transformation. Colours are flattened then painted over again and again to create rich textural forms. Blocks of tones from his distinct palette are compartmentalized and reworked, forcing the edges to bleed into one other. At times, this confrontation makes it difficult to decipher the sequence in which the tones were applied, hidden, then revealed once more. The artist draws on his cultural duality, his migration from Ethiopia to Germany and the respective rituals and rhythms of these two societies, which he collides on the canvas. This creative process, evident in the textured marks, reflects the unpredictability in the ebb and flow of assimilation.

Tegene Kunbi (b. 1980, Ethiopia) is an abstract painter based in Berlin. He graduated with a BFA from the Alle School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa (2004), Ethiopia and gained his MFA at the Universitȁt der Kűnste Berlin (2011). His paintings often depict seemingly flattened landscapes that upon closer inspection, are composed of layer upon layer of subtle and vibrant tones of paint. In 2018, Kunbi’s work was part of the Best of Galerie Ketken exhibition at galerie gerken, Berlin, Germany and featured in the 13th edition of the Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art, Senegal.

Robel Temesgen (b. 1987, Ethiopia) received his MFA in Contemporary Art from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art and Creative Writing, University of Tromsø, Norway (2015) and a BFA in Painting from Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa University (2010). His practice focuses on painting and encompasses elements of performance, installation, video and collaborative projects. In 2018, he had three solo exhibitions, Confluence (Tiwani Contemporary, London, UK) Floating Jebenas (Fendika Cultural Center, (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) and Min Nebere? (Modern Art Museum, Gebre Kristos Desta Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).Temesgen is a lecturer at the Department of Painting, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa University.

Tegene Kunbi and Robel Temesgen: RE:PUBLIC runs until June 25, 2019, at Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi.

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