Robel Temesgen – Practising Water

4th March-16th April 2023
Please join us for the opening Friday 3rd March 6-9pm – part of Bjørvika Art Night

Kunsthall Oslo is very pleased to present Robel Temesgen’s first institutional solo exhibition in Oslo. Practising Water: Report #1 is the first manifestation of the artist’s long-term research project exploring the connections between bodies of water and the human communities that have formed around them. Temesgen is looking in particular at the rituals, folklore, customs and habits or forms of life that bind people and place together, and at the ways in which spirituality and animism form a bridge between the human world and the other.

For Report #1 Temesgen has used painting and performance to chart the flow, both symbolic and actual, of the waters of the Blue Nile through the Ethiopian landscape and culture. From baptisms held at Gish Abay (the source of the Lesser Nile) to the Blue Nile Falls where the river can reach hundreds of metres across, the project documents Temesgen’s literal immersion in the complex spiritual traditions of his homeland. In one telling, the river flows to Earth directly from the Christian Eden; in another, it is home to powerful Djinn that can possess human souls. A multitude of shifting narratives accompany the river’s constant transformation, as it flows from the highlands of East Africa to the Mediterranean, from the deep time of a past before history towards an unkown future.

Temesgen has developed his own ritual language in response to these powerful natural and cultural forces, and to his double position as both pilgrim and artist. For the exhibition Practising Water, Temesgen will present documentation of five river performances, alongside the textiles and objects used in these improvised rituals. The exhibition is completed by a series of luminous and multi-layered paintings made with ink on goatskin parchment.

Robel Temesgen (b. 1987, Ethiopia) is currently a PhD research fellow at the Oslo National Academy of Arts. He received his MFA in Contemporary Art from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art in 2015 and a BFA in Painting from ASFAD, Addis Ababa University in 2010. His practice focuses on painting and encompasses elements of performance, installation, video and collaborative working. Temesgen’s work has been widely exhibited in solo and group shows including at Lingen Konsthalle (2022), Tromso Kunstforening (2022), ARoS Museum, Aarhus (2021), Para Site, Hong Kong (2021), Kunsthall Oslo (2019), Circle Art Agency, Nairobi (2019), Addis Foto Fest, Addis Ababa (2018), Modern Art Museum, Addis Ababa (2018), Tiwani Contemporary Art Gallery, London (2018), and the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2017).