Robel Temesgen: Adbar

7 January - 6 February 2016

Tiwani Contemporary now represents Robel Temesgen (b.1987, Ethiopia) and is pleased to announce his first UK solo exhibition. The exhibition comprises a series of new paintings and works on paper inspired by the longstanding Ethiopian belief of adbar and its associated rituals. In Amharic, the term 'adbar' refers to the embodiment of protective spirits within various elements of the natural landscape, such as lakes, mountains, rocks or trees. Trees possessing adbar, for instance, are strictly protected and believed to act as a link between people and the spirit world. They can serve as shelter, places of worship and meeting points around which to discuss community matters. Temesgen grew up in Dessie, north-east Ethiopia, where adbar was commonly practised.

Adbar marks a return to painting for Temesgen after experiments in video, installation and participatory projects. The series includes over twenty works depicting shimmering imaginary landscapes in Temesgen’s characteristic symbolic, lyrical style. The works vary greatly in scale, with the largest paintings measuring over five metres in length. Suspended from the ceiling and presented as floating rolls of paper partially covering the floor, their appearance recalls Chinese scroll paintings or Ethiopian healing scrolls.

Temesgen’s paintings and works on paper display a luminescence achieved through the use of enamel, spray paint and acrylic on high-gloss paper. They depict water, land and air in various states of fusion and transformation - turbulent or calm, bathed in a surreal, scintillating light. These ethereal landscapes are patterned with soft-coloured nebulous haloes and areas of pointillist detail. The blur of spray paint contrasts with an intermittently miniaturist approach, evoking an element of the sublime in nature, which can bring joy, comfort, fear and torment in equal measure.