The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) is pleased to present WordPlay: Future Tense - a selected exhibition of new paintings by Wosene Worke Kosrof. WordPlay: Future Tense marks the welcome return to GAFRA by the internationally renowned Ethiopian artist.
Wosene Worke Kosrof's practice is informed by his mother tongue of Amharic - the national language of Ethiopia. Amharic, derived from the ancient language of Ge'ez, is one of the few documented writing systems indigenous to Africa. Though Ethiopia has a long tradition of two-dimensional art that include script, the script symbols themselves were never developed as a fine art form. The creation of these script-based compositions from the Amharic script is now recognised as Wosene's 'artistic signature'.
WordPlay is the fifth series of major paintings from a career spanning over forty years. Started in 2009, in this body of work Wosene's paintings are expressed as a form of dialogue with the Amharic script. Forensically, he dissects the 228 symbols that make up Amharic - distorting, elongating and reconfiguring their shapes to produce bold, expressive compositions that celebrate the visual poetry of the language. The works on show not only reveal Wosene's intimate connection with his homeland, they also incorporate his experiences as an expatriate living in the Unites States. In Night of the Red Sky II (Ethiopia 1977-79), Wosene documents life in Ethiopia during the time of communist rule under 'the Derg', before he left the country in 1978. The Derg is the shortened name of the Military Coordinating Committee that ruled Ethiopia between 1974 to1987. The life of the immigrant and artist living in the US is explored in My America II(2015). Here in this work recognisable US symbols co-exist with African ones.
Wosene's process is instinctive - no painting is pre-sketched on the canvas. The final composition rests upon the successful exploration and interplay of colour, form and texture. There are also no literal meanings to be found. In House Full of Words (2014), Wosene makes use of a wide-ranging palette in which bold primary colours and muted tones integrate across the plane of the canvas. In Migrations V(2013), colour is secondary with just the barest of touches, in the otherwise black and white painting.