My work as an artist is an attempt to investigate and visually understand the nature of Nature, which is set forth in scientific theories and various belief systems. My childhood upbringing in an Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is rooted in believing that the purpose of all entities that exist in this planet is to honor God; all existing things in this world/universe are made from fire, water, dirt/soil and air.
During my MFA studies at Michigan State University, I encountered the “Big Bang Theory”, which obliterated the view of the world I had perceived. It is fascinating, and at the same time mind-boggling, to perceive and accept that the universe, at its beginning, was once a “Big Crunch”. This revelation has been a journey in visually and viscerally cataloguing the information gathered from different sources of information.
I am intrigued that the human brain, which once was a microbial organism, has come such a long way… creating mythological and religious belief systems, ideologies evolving from antiquity to Judeo-Christianity, then to Greek philosophy, and now to the understanding of the neurochemistry of our brain. These advances have enabled us to open our eyes in understanding the physical nature of the universe, from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. These form the basis of many other sciences, including chemistry, oceanography, seismology, astronomy and biology among others.
These fields of science have influenced my thinking as well as the visual investigations that underlie my work. It is through this information that the human mind became capable in understanding its place in the universe. My fascination with the evolution of our brains and thinking has stimulated my contemplation of how it is possible that a scientific hypothesis with a mathematical computation can provide a fundamental basis in the understanding of the fabric of the cosmos! Why is the universe amenable to mathematics and geometry? Why is it that the birth of a star or a galaxy starts in mega-explosion?
It is true that excavating a fossil can tell us something about the nature and chemical composition of the object being excavated. Scientists can explain why continents drifted away from each other in the past through tectonic plates; geologists explain that our planet is made of four distinct layers. This conclusion, among others, is the result of the study of seismic waves and earth’s magnetic field. It appears to me that every existing thing in this natural world is full of information. As a result, I have realized –over time– that the focal point of my work has become cosmological information. Yet today, as we are bombarded by data from myriad sources of information, it is beyond our human abilities to take it all in. The myriad sources of information I internalize are transformed by my visual imagination and externalized in the iconography of my work.
I want to tell a story: the story of the evolution of human beings and the evolution of human thinking that have shaped the perceptions of the world in which we live. I come from a culture in which story-telling is the sole purpose of an artwork. I am a fourth generation from Ethiopian traditional painter’s family, in which my childhood upbringing was spent assisting my father in mural paintings, illumination manuscripts, magic scroll and Ethiopian iconography paintings. The story-telling from my childhood education and experience had found its way to my contemporary work.
Thus, my work is an attempt to visualize information: information that is astronomically observed, geologically excavated, scientifically predicted, mathematically verified, philosophically premised, religiously prophesized, mythologically told and re-contextualized into my own visual iconography.