PAINTING ETHIOPIA: THE LIFE AND WORK OF QES ADAMU TESFAW

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By Raymond Silverman, with contributions by Neal Sobania and Leah Niederstadt

In Painting Ethiopia, art historian Raymond Silverman explores the remarkable work and career of Ethiopian artist Qes Adamu Tesfaw. As Silverman reveals through insightful analysis and in-depth conversations with the artist spanning over eleven years, Qes Adamu’s work defies easy categorization. He is at once a devotional painter, a popular painter, a traditional painter, a genre painter, a history painter, and a commercial painter. On one hand, he is an artist schooled in the philosophy and aesthetics of a fifteen-hundred-year-old tradition associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. His artwork, on the other hand, is often eccentric and individual.

Whether focusing on a few characters in a single episode inspired by a biblical story, painting a raging battle scene, or depicting his fellow citizens at work or prayer, Qes Adamu manages to achieve a psychological intensity that immediately engages the viewer. His bold color choices and unusual compositional strategies intensify the emotional power of his images and the narratives they relate. Silverman’s extensive knowledge of Ethiopian art history and his long-standing rapport with the artist help to situate Qes Adamu within a larger framework and to point out the inability of the “modern” versus “traditional” dichotomy to capture the multivalence of artistic expression in contemporary Africa.

120 pages, 10 x 10 inches
ISBN 0-9748729-2-X paper, $30.00
$15.00 — 50% off original price

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