For Merid Tafese, the sixth generation direct descendant of King Sahle Selassie of the Royal House of Solomon of Ethiopia, his fondest memories are of his father’s extensive book collection, which would play a major role in him becoming an artist.
In 1994, Tafese was admitted into the Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Art and Design in Ethiopia, where he keenly developed his ideas and skills along with his social consciousness. Gallery Guichard in Chicago is proud to present Tafese’s solo fine art exhibition titled “A Stream of Consciousness.”
This is your first Chicago visit. Tell us about “A Stream of Consciousness” at Gallery Guichard, and why it is important?
In my 20 years career as a contemporary artist, this is the first time I signed with a gallery. And the fact that the gallery is a Black-owned gallery makes it even more special. As the title implicates, the works being exhibited are a collection of easily five years work and change of medium, thought, mood…
If you had to describe your art, what adjectives would you use and why?
Spontaneous. Charcoal is the best medium to express my ideas spontaneously and helps me to capture the ideas and fleeting thoughts in my head. … It’s like painting in black and shades of grey tones. I chose to work with charcoal for 10 years as it appears negative for its darkness, blackness, … the stereotype of blackness which is not really related or even relevant.
How did your father’s international book collection influence you and your eventual foray into art?
[At] a time of fear, terror and being disconnected from the rest of the planet, the collection of books was my scope to look beyond what was happening in my beloved country in the Dergue military junta time. [In] the same way, my art was my outlet and the only free space to be creative and say anything I want. So both the books and my creative process of doing art worked hand-in-hand and contributed to my development as an artist.
What is “eye-touch” you refer to in your work?
Visual art, unlike other artistic expressions, is mostly soundless and more depends on the frequency of light and color that penetrate into our minds through the eye. That’s what I call eye-touch.
Why did you co-found the Desta Y. Meghoo Development Consultancy & Associates (DYMDC) Children’s Village Art Project, and what is its mission?
It was my childhood dream and wish to take care of children off the street, regardless of biological connection or obligation. So when my now wife, Dr. Desta, came with the idea of feeding and caring for children on the street, I jumped on board because it was the fulfillment of a dream I had that I told many of my childhood friends. Our mission was to use art to help children heal themselves for we know the therapeutic quality of art.
“A Stream of Consciousness” runs at Gallery Guichard, 436 E. 47th St., in Chicago through Aug. 6, 2019.