My paintings are greatly informed by Ethiopian narratives, identity, and history. the visuals in my paintings contain an encyclopaedic range of information taken from archival photos, texts, stories, video frames, and my own experiences/visual documentation. It lingers between creating a visual narrative referring a specific image and abstracting a figure into the unknown. I am also fascinated by the idea of the epigenetic inheritance, this idea of a memory that transfers over generations. I often feel that this work is a kind of map of some of that. The layers of realities inspired me to translate my own story into the large-scale paintings and pastel drawings, on the other hand the works are a very intimate portrait of history mainly referring to the anticolonial resistance of Ethiopia. Furthermore, after an immense improvisation and changes through distorting, elongating, and reassembling the images, it becomes focusing on creating a canvas that serves as a visual field for the viewer to project itself and have a momentary experience which is peculiar for each individual.
"Born in Ethiopia and based in Oslo, Belete’s practise is preoccupied with cultural heritage and identity. His process begins with the collection of source materials such as photographs from newspaper articles, letters, recorded conversations and various textiles - most significantly, traditional Ethiopian ceremonial garments, which the artist finds both aesthetically and symbolically interesting with regards to their continued presence in contemporary life. Fragments of these sources are then reassembled and stitched together to create a rich and complex visual landscape infused with the artist’s own personal memories and perspectives. Whilst varying in origin, most of the materials are in some way engaged with Ethiopia’s history, and more specifically, with Italy’s violent, albeit unsuccessful attempts to colonise the country. ‘Most of the time the colonial history has been narrated in a sad way, but I want to colourise it,’ says Belete
Stitching together fragments from historic and contemporary Ethiopian culture, Wendimagegn Belete creates vibrant, textural collage paintings that explore the concept of epigenetic inheritance, of memories that transfer over generations and permeate our present.
Art-making to Belete is partly a conscious construction of visual narratives and partly pure unconscious expression. ‘I believe that I possess memories from my ancestors and those are revealed to me when creating a work,’ he says. Whether or not you subscribe to this ideology, there is a palpable sense of urgency and spontaneity visible in the marks made by the artist’s hand. Each work is heavily layered not only with source materials, but also half-formed shapes, patterns and lines that appear dreamlike and abstract, interacting with the surrounding imagery to form a multitude of narrative possibilities.
It is this sense of possibility is what makes Belete’s work appear alive, and continuously evolving. To the artist, it is less about creating specifically focused series and more about forming a visual ‘memory map’ that transcends the boundaries of a single canvas. ‘I work on several paintings at one time, sometimes cutting a section from one painting and adding it to another,’ he explains.
More significant, though, is the artist’s use of time, or rather disruption of conventional time structures. Refusing to distinguish between past, present and future visions, Belete instead attempts to portray a psychological and collective experience of time, which not only energises the past in the present moment, but encourages an accumulation of experiences as a way of making sense of history, culture and our place in the world as both community members and individuals. " - Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery