Untitled XXXVI, 2019


Unique Artwork

Acrylic on canvas

Acrylic on canvas
59 7/8 x 48 1/8 in
152 x 122 cm


CM H 122 W 152

IN H 48 W 59

Signed by artist



Untitled XXXVI, 2019

Merikokeb Berhanu creates an aloof, almost subterranean atmosphere in her paintings. An array of life bearing forms, such as orange seed pods, embryos, fallopian tubes, and pulsing cells, appear set against a vibrant coloured background of predominately intense blues and greens, forming surreal yet earthly structures.

Merikokeb makes much of the vertical ascent of saplings, plants bursting through the surface, as well as the forces that resist and suppress their efforts. Both growth and decay appear in equal measure: a flower climbs through a dense rock, if only to blossom and droop into the appreciative embrace of an exhausted and bonelike human figure. Her work at once appears to be a celebration of these life-bearing forms, as well as something more decidedly complex – in her words,“The life that we are passing through. The light, line, the complexity and density of what surrounds us, the thick fog and smoke, happiness and hope, misery and bliss.”

She deeply communicates the visual equivalent of her feelings and thoughts, wanting the viewer to “hear” the images through their own visual power.

Merikokeb Berhanu

Merikokeb Berhanu (b. 1977) was born in Addis Ababa, where she attended the Addis Ababa University, Alle School Fine Arts and Design (2002).

Berhanu creates an aloof, almost subterranean atmosphere in her paintings. An array of life bearing forms, such as orange seed pods, embryos, fallopian tubes, and pulsing cells, appear set against a network of gaunt, drooping female figures, and surreal yet earthly structures. There is a fertilized egg, through which the sperm, in its upward trajectory, has punctured a hole to escape from. There is a cow perched atop a mammary gland-like structure, but with its udders upturned.

Berhanu makes much of the vertical ascent of saplings, plants bursting through the surface, as well as the forces that resist and suppress their efforts. Both growth and decay appear in equal measure: a flower climbs through dense rock, if only to blossom and droop into the appreciative embrace of an exhausted and bonelike human figure. Her work at once appears to be a celebration of these life-bearing forms, as well as something more decidedly complex - in her words, “the light, line, complexity, and density of the wide, thick fog and smoke; the happiness and hopefulness, misery and bliss of this life we are passing through.”  

Merikokeb Berhanu currently lives and works in Maryland, USA. She previously worked from the Nubia studio, which she set up with a group of fellow artists. Nubia studio is a dynamic cultural centre and studio space in the heart of Addis Ababa.

Her work has been shown at numerous exhibitions, including s...

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Addis Fine Art

Founded in 2016 by Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul, Addis Fine Art is a pioneering gallery based in Addis Ababa and London. Listed as one of the "Most Important Galleries in the World" (Artsy 2019), it is the very first local white cube space and international platform based in Ethiopia. The gallery focuses on highlighting modern and contemporary fine art from the Horn of Africa region and its Diasporas.

January 2016 saw the opening of the gallery's main space in the heart of Addis Ababa, showing a diverse set of modern and contemporary artists. In October 2016, the AFA Project Space was opened in London to expand the international programme centered around the Diaspora voices. In Spring of 2020, the London gallery will move to a permanent office space and full programme in Cromwell Place, a first-of-its-kind exhibition space in Kensington, London.

In it's short history, Addis Fine Art has become one of the leading galleries from Africa, facilitating critical engagement with the local and mainstream art markets, championing an underrepresented, yet rich space in modern and contemporary fine art.

Addis Fine Art Gallery
3rd Floor Woldfiker Building
Bole Medhane Alem, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Monday - Saturday // 10am-1pm & 2-6pm
Tel: +251 980 635 696

Addis Fine Art London
1 - 5 Cromwell Place
South Kensington, London SW7 2JE
*Opening Spring 2020
Tel: +44 203 488 0822

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Curated by Addis Fine Art

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