The Line Art Group’s exhibition of contemporary
local paintings at National Museum of Ethiopia
opened on April 16, 2011.
The Line Art Group consists of Adamseged Michael,
Biruk Mengistu, Girma Bulti, Mekoya Kiros, and
Solomon Teshome, established artists on the local
“We are friends in painting,” said Girma, the
curator of the exhibition and art expert at the
National Museum who is also an exhibitor. “While our
styles of painting are diverse, we have the same
concept of art as an art form.”
The reason for choosing the “Line Group” as their
combined exhibition name has a double meaning that
holds sway with their similar ideologies.
“The one meaning of a line is that of the line used
in sketching and drawing,” Girma told Fortune during
a guided of the exhibition on Monday, April 18,
2011. “The other meaning is of a line as indicating
direction, or a trajectory. The five members of the
group think alike.”
Despite this similar thinking, their backgrounds and
styles differ dramatically, ranging from realism to
impressionism and expressionism to semi-abstract and
Each participant contributed around 20 paintings to
amount to a total of 90 art works on show on both
levels of the exhibition hall, which is located in a
separate building on the same compound as the
National Museum on King George VI Street in Amist
Girma’s work is realistic in that the subject matter
is based on Ethiopian culture. “Gudifecha” depicts a
traditional adoption ceremony, where the matriarch
of the family of many children hands over her
newborn to a childless woman in the countryside.
His “Scenes of Oromia II” and “Dawn” similarly
depict traditional life, showing his impression of
the region through the image of a woman in
traditional Oromo dress performing a cultural
activity, such as toting water and herding sheep, in
a realistic style.
The style used by Biruk in his painting is likewise
realistic, although it contains decorative aspects.
The subject dominating his works is that of women
and the way he views their friendships. The figures
of the women he depicts are realistic in that they
are identifiable as such and his use of colour is
bright with much green, gold, and shimmering browns.
“Sabategna” shows five women, like himself and his
co-exhibitors, perhaps, sitting in a line, looking
similar but not the same, holding each other in a
friendly grip, celebrating their unity in diversity,
a reflection of the exhibition which is surprisingly
coherent, given the diversity of the works on show
Mekoya is also a realist, as shown by his “Self
Portrait.” He also depicts some traditional scenes,
such as “Ketera Temket,” a picture of the ceremony
performed by priests around the Epiphany
celebrations, and “Demera,” a large bonfire.
However, he does not sick exclusively to realism and
his “Battle of Adwa” expresses the battle in an
abstract manner with mostly only the movement
discernable, from which viewers derive the
impression of an ongoing battle at the centre of the
Girma also dabbles in expressionism in his “Full
Figures,” a work of which the focus is more on the
movement seen in the painting than on the realism of
the detail of the depicted subject.
However, impressionism dominates the art of
Adamseged, whose work is the nearest to
impressionist than that of any of the other “Line
Group” artists. The focus in his work is on the
movement of the scenes while detail takes a back
seat, such as in “Unity.”
At first it appears to be tall trees clustered
together; however, it could also resemble human
figures standing together in a small group to form a
“This is pure impressionism,” Girma said of the
painting by way iof explanation.
The impressionism present in some of Adamseged’s
other paintings are not as pure, as the works
contain other elements. For example, his “Moving
Figures,” in which the white-clad strolling figures
in the foreground seem really to be moving contains
some detail in the facial expressions of the
figures. The same is true of “Lovers,” showings a
couple cuddling on a couch.
Girma also mixes realism with abstractions in some
of his work. “Virgin Land” depicts three boys that
are discernable in shape (it is thus not wholly
abstract) but without facial expressions (nor is it
On the other hand, Solomon is a traditional painter
who uses a decorative style of flat figures and
patterns, much after the fashion of traditional
church mural paintings.
“From a historical perspective, the first round of
Ethiopian painting was ‘cultural,’ depicting
traditional subject matter using found materials,”
Girma told Fortune. “The second round was
‘traditional,’ depicting the same subjects but using
‘modern’ materials such as oil paint.
Aside from using decorative designs in paintings,
another feature setting Ethiopian painting apart
from the traditions of other countries is that it
depicts Jesus Christ as black, instead of blonde and
blue-eyed, according to Girma. The third feature is
the shape in which eyes are depicted; usually it is
shown as large, in the shape of an oval, the top
lids droping down, he explained.
All these features have a strong presence in
Solomon’s work and traces of it can be seen in the
small watercolours of Girma, some of which show a
strong decorative influence mixed with elements that
lean more towards being abstract, realistic, or any
All the works forming part of the exhibition, which
will run until April 30, 2011, are for sale.
Entrance to the exhibition is free.