Sunday, 23 March 2014

Ephrem Solomon: Untitled Life

I really like the graphic style of Ephrem Solomons' work, and having only recently discovered it, was glad of an opportunity to see it first-hand in this show near Oxford Circus in central London. Tiwani Contemporary Gallery is also a new discovery for me despite it being open for two years or thereabouts. They are a part of the burgeoning Fitzrovia gallery scene, and specialise in showing artists from Africa and its diaspora. Solomon is 30 years old and works from his hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I initially thought Solomon's work was a series of lino-cut prints, but was surprised on close inspection to see that they are woodcuts which are then collaged and painted onto. This is a unique twist on traditional woodcut technique in which they are usually carved into and an impression taken from the block and produced as a series of limited edition prints. It is the first time I have seen this one-off woodcut technique and think it works well. 

The exhibition is comprised of a series of portraits - some close-ups of heads and others single figures or groups. There is an emphasis on space, pattern and symbols such as chairs and slippers which reference displacement and political regimes of both his country and others across Africa. I wondered why Solomon chose to collage fragments of torn newsprint paper onto the backgrounds of his pictures and was told that is how Ethiopians actually decorate their living spaces.

The works are hung unframed and this suits Solomon's strong imagery. Looking at the strong graphic imagery I was reminded of the graphic work of Erich Heckel (below), the German Expressionist artist and member of Die Brucke, whose prints produced in 1913, were influenced by African masks and carvings.

Solomon himself is influenced by Van Gogh and Schiele so there is a nice cultural exchange of ideas and styles coming full circle.

Ephrem Solomon: Untitled Life
until 29th March 

Tiwani Contemporary
16 Little Portland Street, W1