Kaleab Abate was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he also currently lives and works. He graduated from Ale School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa, in 2021 with a focus on printmaking.
Employing various printmaking techniques, different materials, charcoal drawing, and others, allows him to experiment with different layers in his works on paper and canvas. Beginning with a portrait in which he focuses on emotions and expression rather than the likeness of his subject, he then allows the material and printmaking patterns to guide his compositions intuitively. He allows bodily shapes to fragment and deforms into layers, some rich, others delicate, half-transparent or patterned, adding his distinct surreal twist. Abate’s layering technique becomes a process to imagine and visualize the complex depths of the stories that may or may not live within the bodies he depicts:
“My composition is loaded with unexpected forms and textures. The majority of the things in my works are unrealistic. Figures are distorted, shapes are erratic, and color options are limited. The vast majority of events are unreal. This daring fantasy has piqued my interest. My creations, however, have a considerable amount of realism. That is why I regard my works as fantasized realities.”
His figures are sculpturesque, seem immobile and monumental, bearing notions of urgency and holding a strong, majestic presence that does not easily elude the viewers’ eye. The elongated and deformed figures placed into a ‘fantasized reality’ allude to the present history and way of life of young Africans – a reflection of how young Africans are enslaved by systematic uncertainty in form of politics, social systems, economic crises, miseducation, and past and present historical ambiguities.