Today’s guest is Senafekesh Zeleke. She is a studio artist, graphic designer and art instructor by profession. She is one of Ethiopia's shining starts in the painting world. She has been playing a major role in taking the painting industry to the helm of achievement through her creative works and awareness raising campaigns time and again.
She is engaged in a volunteer service by demonstrating her work to the public in most states of the country as well as universities. She has displayed her painting works in various parts of the country such as Adam, Jimma, Arba Minch, Gondor, Ambo, Mekelle and so forth apart from displaying her works at Jimma, Ambo, Arba Minch, Mekelle Universities.
She strives hard so that people can recognize the mystery-unlocking nature of art. She has been conveying as well as depicting multifaceted societal messages and issues through her painting works.
Likewise, artist Senafekesh is among one of Ethiopian artists who emerged out of continuous storms of artistic change. And this wave has not yet subsided. In earlier times, she was getting herself involved in dimensional realistic painting style. At the present time, she has embraced the Semi-Realistic Representative and Expressional style. The artist is making her dream turn a reality bringing into play straight and curved lines in conjunction with circular shapes with a view to giving vent to or reflecting her deep internal feelings and cherished philosophies. As a matter of fact, quite a lot of Ethiopian artists have been applying this style.
The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with Artist Senafekish Zeleke with the purpose of familiarizing her personal and professional life with esteemed readers. She has touched upon a number of absorbing issues concerning the chapter and verse of the painting industry. Excerpts:
What inspired you to study painting?
Prior to my enrollment in Art school, I was extremely interested in doing arts. I developed the interest in childhood in the course of my primary and secondary school education. All the time, my exercise book was full of drawings. To the surprise of many, my parents were in the habit of fulfilling everything I sought without any hesitation. As I was their sole child, they were showering me with everything I needed. They did not prevent me from doing whatever I wanted to do. Hence, after taking the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination, I joined the Art School and studied there for four years. In my stay there, I had spent a successful year. I really feel affection for painting. It is everything to me. Inch by inch, I won public appreciation in translating what I had studied in the art school in to pictures captured in canvas. I am still in the art world. At this point in time, nothing and nobody could distance me from the art world.
In reality, most of my works have gained public acclamation by means of electronics and print media.
Although discharging quite a lot of household responsibilities for those who are in the art world is a serious challenge, I consider the challenge as the two sides of the coin or one parts of life. I would say, that is why I am still in the art world.
What is all about painting?
At the outset, painting is a work of art which is made by putting paint on a canvas, board and making use of brushes and tools. It could be explained in different ways as it cannot be explained in simple terms. Art is a visual language and the lines are its primary manifestations. By the way, straight and curved lines are not basic ones. They are complimentary and relatively opposite to each other.
Canvas viewed from different directions conjure up various expressions in the mind of viewers. I am pursuing my purpose bringing into play straight and curved lines together with circular shapes with the aim of reflecting my deep internal feelings and philosophies. As a visual language, lines afford different interpretation. When they are drawn jointly or independently, either they have a representational or expressional meaning. In other words, they express the feeling of the artist in the form of abstract or realistic styles.
How do you describe the current status of Ethiopian painting?
Regarding Ethiopian painting, I would say there is a change. The attitude of people towards painting was not that big at that juncture. People do not clearly understand the difference between painting and photographing. Even worse, some people merely associate painting with drawing pictures. They think the two things mean one and the same.
On the contrary, people’s attitude towards painting has been showing significant change at this moment in time. The language of painting is universal. Anyone could understand and communicate with the language of painting across the world without difficulty. When people stumble upon painting works, they can come up with their own interpretations no matter what the level of their understanding towards paintings may be.
Sadly, in the past, painting works were limited regarding making use of various techniques. Most of us were sticking to what we had learned while we were at Fine Arts School. At this point in time, we are injecting various techniques with the purpose of expressing our ideas in a very clear way. Our painting works concentrate on realism. We should as well be flexible, as such a trend plays a major role in expressing our ideas in clearer ways. We do not have to stick to what we had learnt while we were at school. Currently, various techniques have been practiced in painting works as we put across more than a few things in them.
What is the reaction of the general public towards painting?
When we invite people to see our painting works, they come at once and visit our painting works without rubbing their eyes. We do not invite people to force them buy our works. When they come to visit our works and get impressed, we grow to be infinitely happy. Whenever many art fans and others get information about our exhibitions, they come and visit the displayed paintings almost immediately.
Above and beyond, parents better learn taking their children to different galleries instead of taking them to various cafes/recreation centers. When children visit galleries, they could broaden their mental horizons learning quite a lot of things. When they pose questions, we can explain what each and the whole lot concerning our paintings mean. Art is something that should be given due attention because it serves different functions. Above all, it helps people know more about things which they have not familiarized themselves with.
Is it possible to achieve the desired goal with empirical knowledge?
I am not against self-made artists who do painting with experiential knowledge. But, I would say, in this fashion, it is impossible to achieve the desired goal . If truth be told, there are people who got themselves involved in the profession exclusive of formal education. When they do paintings based on empirical knowledge, they may end up making flaws. But to keep themselves away from mistakes, it is better to get a formal education. Without a shadow of a doubt, formal education enables one to be on the right track. That means, unless artists understand the nuts and bolts of painting or hone their skills through formal education, they cannot achieve the desired goal in a little while.
To the best of my knowledge, professionals with empirical knowledge should be able to familiarize themselves with the fundameentals of paintings. As there are fine arts schools in Addis Ababa and nowadays in rural parts, professionals with empirical knowledge can upgrade their knowledge without difficulty. If drawing is done as it should be, other techniques could be developed bit by bit. In actual fact, the secret behind painting is really deep and huge. Oil painting and color mixing by themselves play a major role. We should as well get ourselves ready for criticism as a well-founded feedback is a good thing to broaden one's knowledge.
Why is criticism a good thing?
To the best of my mind, artists should get themselves ready for criticism on the subject of their works. Honestly speaking, artists make mistakes unintentionally.
For instance, if somebody comes up with a certain professional comment or otherwise on my painting works, in heeding ear I do not have to bat my eyes for a fraction of a second as the only way out is entertaining all comments. I do not have to turn a blind eye. But if the feedback is not right, I will not apply them in my works. We should let people unrestrained forward their feelings, ideas and thoughts on our works. We do not have to give them the cold shoulders. In reality, many are the artists not in the position to lend viewers their ears for criticism. They do not want their mistakes to be told or amplified. Such kind of frame of mind is not good as it does not help us broaden our skill. As a result, we should learn to stomach criticisms as it helps us come up with better results next time. Whenever our works is displayed in a certain gallery, people from all walks of life could come up with their feelings. But here one thing that I would like to stress is, we do not have to hesitate to entertain professional comments.
Where do you display your paintings?
Well, to the surprise of many, Tomaca Coffee has been serving the Ethiopian coffee in scrupulous roasting as well as brewing for sixty four years. It has also proffered works of art that energize the conscious and appease the sub conspicuous in Golleria Tomaca for almost six years. Galleria Tomaca has now featured my works attributed to “searching a new self.” I have been showcasing my works there at this juncture. I do want everybody to visit my works. I as well need viwers comments. The paintings in the exhibition are showcased free of charge. Of course, my painting works are for sale but selling prices are not posted on my works. I put up my works for sale through bargaining.
In the mean time, when the exhibition is over, customers could buy and take their paintings home as they wish. Tomaca has made a certain area open for painters to display their works free of charge. Tomaca is doing a lot of things. Business people should have this kind of mentality to take our painting to a new chapter of success. There are as well gaps to be bridged in our profession.
What are the gaps to be bridged?
At this instant, an adequate amount of essential materials for drawing and paintings are not available as it should be. We need to have all the necessary materials for painting works at our disposal. There should be more importers who could supply to us painting materials such as canvases and brushes. There should be as well somebody who would import the whole lot required for paintings and drawings. I am not saying there is no such thing at all.
At this time the number of galleries are finger counted. Painters do not get much exhibiting spaces. There is also other problem. There is a gallery at Sheraton Addis. The problem is it is the same people who put on show their paintings works there. Whenever there is a program there, I visit painting works with my children as I and my children love painting with all our hearts. I learn a lot of things there.
The problem in the painting art is the presence of quite a lot of painters facing shortages of gallerias, where they can display their paintings. There is a mismatch between the number of galleries and painters.
What are the salient messages you carry across in your paintings and peculiar styles?
Well, I express everything making use of a number of techniques. I do not stick to a single technique. If I come up with a certain technique today, I do not apply the same thing in my next paintings. I reflect a number of issues in my works. More often than not, I focus on comparing and contrasting things such as day and night, black and white, back and forth, coming and going and among others. To express all theses ambivalence, I should be able to create different textures. I do not like sticking to a certain style.
BY ADDISALEM MULAT