View full screen - View 1 of Lot 66. WOSENE WORKE KOSROF | BUILDING WITH WORDS.
66

WOSENE WORKE KOSROF | BUILDING WITH WORDS

VAT reduced rate

Estimate:

28,000

to
- 38,000 GBP

WOSENE WORKE KOSROF | BUILDING WITH WORDS

WOSENE WORKE KOSROF | BUILDING WITH WORDS

Estimate:

28,000

to
- 38,000 GBP

WOSENE WORKE KOSROF

Ethiopian

b.1950

BUILDING WITH WORDS


signed and dated 2007 (lower right); signed and titled (on the reverse) 

acrylic on canvas

132 by 125cm., 52 by 49¼in.


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Please note that consumer cancellation rights do not apply to this lot.

Structure: Canvas appears original and stable.


Surface: Very good condition.


UV Light: Inspection under UV light reveals no clear signs of restoration or repair.


Summary: This work is in very good condition.


This work is unframed.


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Please telephone the department on +44 2072936323 if you have any questions regarding the present work.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.  

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE INCLUDED IN THE CATALOGUE.

The power – and beauty – of art lie in its potential to be interpreted. Art has the capacity to bring into a room – and connect - an array of perspectives, agreements, and opposing views. A work of art, seen in different ways, animates dialogue and gives rise to communication. It challenges us to inquire what and how we see; it challenges our habits of mind. Art surprises us, as it often does the artists who create it.


Wosene Worke Kosrof speaks of this: “…When I’m in the studio with brush in hand, I begin with fear – fear of that mysterious space of the unknown, and fear that nothing will come to fill that blank canvas tacked on the wall in front of me.” But, he continues: “I’m always surprised at what time, patience, and my experience of years in the studio, present to me as I dialogue with colours and work with shapes of Amharic script.”


In these two works, Wosene (his professional name) portrays this subtle yet dynamic power of art and language as cultural connectors. He is the first artist to use the script images of the lingua franca of his birth country, Ethiopia, to create a kind of international visual ‘lingua franca’ – a visual narrative that moves beyond literal words and literal meanings.


Building with Words (2008) symbolizes this power of art to stimulate communication. The lines and shapes are themselves distorted and abstracted language forms. The broad range of colours suggests a sweeping panorama of voices, of the many ways of seeing and interpreting art, life issues, events. At the same time, the many colours, i.e. the many voices, create a harmonious whole, a balanced composition: a visual reminder of the value of agreement and dissent.


Often, Wosene creates his colourful compositions against a white background, opening space both above and below the bold compositions. As he explains: “…opening the space at the bottom of a work breaks with classical Western conventions of creating a solid ‘ground’, which, for me, is that mysterious source of language, that which is unknown or unspoken, and the constant inspiration for my ‘WordPlay’. This opening at both bottom and top of the canvas allows the painting to float and breathe and gives the script space to move. It’s an enlivened, dynamic space.”


The abundant lines and shapes of the script forms play along verticals, horizontals, diagonals, and arcs – all composed into a work that nudges the eye to play, to explore all parts of the painting. Its architectural intimations come from this abundant interplay of lines, and at the same time suggests the performative nature of conversations built on words.


In The Moon, the Dancers and the Fire (2003), Wosene pays tribute to a significant ritual in Ethiopian culture: the celebration of ‘Adbar’. In a country with many religious festivals, ‘Adbar’ is a uniquely secular, yet also spiritual, celebration of community, communication, and connection. It takes place on a late Spring night, a night of the full moon (for light on streets with limited electricity), on a neighborhood street. 


At dusk, the neighbor women begin carrying out candles which are logistically placed, and several meter-wide metal bowls filled with ‘nefro’ – wheat grain that will be boiled over an open fire and shared with all. The men bring beverages, including beer, soda, water, and ‘katikala’ - a potent liquor made from grain that is believed to have healing properties. The many children run through the street, delighting in the festivities. Then, later, the highpoint of ‘Adbar’ is the ritual slaughter of a lamb that is roasted on a flat round metal pan placed over the open fire pit.


While food and drink provide the physical nourishment for the ritual celebration, the actual significance of ‘Adbar’ is its expression of gratitude for the health and well-being of the neighbors during the previous year. Each family contributes to the dinner, as well as to the narrative, explaining what they brought and what they are thankful for. As the celebrating winds down, each person commits to the next year’s ritual – what they are requesting during the next year and what they will contribute in thanks.


Wosene portrays this festival of ‘Adbar’ with a limited palette; the almost statue-like figures, composed of whole or parts of script forms could be the neighbors, sitting, standing, talking, the children singing and playing. The bold red syllable ‘ra’, just off center, depicts the fire, around which the people gather in their separate but interdependent selves.


Wosene’s visual recounting of that ritual is, at the same time, a contemporary composition that has meaning beyond the celebration of ‘Adbar’ – it is a work of art that encourages us to imagine the confluence of the moon, dancers, and fire, to connect to our own memories and experiences, and to conjure surprising images of the unexpected, the unpredictable, the unknown. It is art that connects us in myriad ways to our own lives and the lives of others.


Patricia L. DiRubbo, PhD

Berkeley CA, USA