Sea of Words IV, 2018, acrylic on linen, 52x48 inches.
Wosene Worke Kosrof’s recent work continues his long-standing exploration of the interplay between language, identity, aesthetic beauty and material using the language symbols of Amharic – one of the few ancient written systems in Africa – as a core compositional element. His work is dense with visual complexity that reflects an awareness of a vast array of both formal and inherited traditions. He relieves words of conventional meanings and, instead, explores their aesthetic, sensual, and visual content to speak boldly and clearly to a universal audience. With Amharic calligraphy, Wosene explores the aesthetic dimensions of the script rather than producing legible text. "I am seeking the poetic or artistic value of the "fiedel" or language symbols themselves, and I see my work as visual poetry. The writing in my painting does not tell a literal story, but rather a visual story. The Amharic "fiedel" are extremely beautiful and have rhythmic and dancing forms. I "choreograph" them on canvas, I cut them apart, turn them upside down, repeat sections of them to discover the beauty of written language and to think about how we communicate. I communicate with color, line and composition, rather than with sounds, conventional words and literal narratives".
Words Matter, Two, 2019, acrylic on linen, 50x36 inches
I don’t pre-sketch paintings; my process is inchoate and exploratory: the interplay of accident and intention, of mastery and uncertainty, of curiosity and discovery. Quick-drying acrylics allow me to easily build and destroy colors and figures on canvas. I use a wide-ranging palette, from bold primary colors to muted tones that look almost repellent on my palette, but that smoothly integrate into a composition; to black and white paintings with bare touches of color; to works in several tones of a single color.
Since my student years at the School of Fine Art in Addis Ababa (1967-1972), American jazz has asserted a significant influence on my painting. Like jazz music, the script provides a repertoire of dense, yet supple, elements that lend themselves well to visual improvisation. Jazz also influences my sense of composition: like improvisational music, the language symbols can be juxtaposed on canvas in nonverbal ‘word-plays’ to create a visual language of form and color, rhythm and movement.
Wosene Worke Kosrof. 2020
Wosene Worke Kosrof
Memoir III, 2019Acrylic on linen 44x90 inches
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