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Tightrope: It is Green 8, Elias Sime, 2023, electrical wires on panels.
Image © and courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery. Photo Phoebe d’Heurle.

Arnolfini opens its autumn season for 2023 with Eregata እርጋታ , the first major solo European museum exhibition of one of Ethiopia’s leading contemporary artists, Elias Sime, introducing audiences to a man and maker of extraordinary craftsmanship and collaborative spirit.

Recently the focus of a major touring exhibition in North America, and a prominent artist in the Venice Biennale 59th international exhibition, Sime’s approach to both life and art feels vital in the present moment.

Eregata እርጋታ will primarily focus on work from the past six years, including Sime’s monumental Venice Biennale commission Veiled Whispers (2022), alongside intricately woven abstract topographies from the landmark series Tightrope (2009 to present), key works from his early stitch, yarn and button series, and the tactile fragility of Bareness, a large-scale ceramic installation from 2014.

A close up colour photograph of Elias Sime’s ceramic pieces called Bareness, 2014. An installation of multiple ceramic pieces, in shades of orange terracotta clay and some in darker shades. Each piece looks like a pot with two handles with an opening in the middle.
Bareness from the exhibition, Elias Sime: Tightrope, 2019. Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Curated by Tracy L. Adler. Image courtesy of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Photograph by John Bentham.

The exhibition’s title Eregata’s እርጋታ emerges from the artist’s language, Amharic, translated by Sime into as closest in meaning to the calmness and tranquility of the English word serene. Yet, for all its suggestions of calm to a western ear, for Sime eregata reflects a recognition that our minds are never truly still or silent: “we struggle to stop and sleep because our brains are constantly stimulated by technology – we are constantly moving faster not slower.”

A colour photograph of Elias Sime’s Tightrope: Behind the Processor #6. A three-dimensional wall piece of grids that looks like an ariel view of maps, that has layered texture, made from woven electrical wires and other components, in shades of greens, yellow, blue, purple, brown and red.
TIGHTROPE Behind the Processor #6, 2022. Courtesy the Artist and GRIMM and James Cohan Gallery. Photo Jonathan de Waart

Sime’s work flows against this tide, embracing a notion of ‘slowness’ – “My art is slowing it down. The work forces me to slow down.” – as he takes years to transform carefully sourced materials (from electrical wires to computer keyboards), filling them with new life, to explore both local and global issues around sustainability, materiality, and the impact of technology upon society.

A colour photograph of Elias Sime’s concave floor based sculptural piece called Tightrope: Concave Triangle #2, that is made from beige shade of computer keys in leaf like shapes, and woven reclaimed electrical wires in shades of red, around the computer keys in shades of red.
Tightrope Concave Triangle #2, 2020. Courtesy the Artist and GRIMM & James Cohan Gallery. Photo Jonathan de Waart.

Eregata እርጋታ also seeks to explore Sime’s relationship to his own environment, and the inspirational collaborative project Zoma Museum, in the artist’s home city of Addis Ababa, founded by Sime and long-time collaborator and anthropologist Meskerem Assegued.

a colour photograph of Meskerem Assegued and Elias Sime against the backdrop of the clay clad wall of Zoma Museum.
Meskerem Assegued and Elias Sime at Zoma Museum July 2023. Image by Alice Hendy Photography for Arnolfini. All rights reserved.

A programme of performance, talks and screenings will accompany Eregata እርጋታ,  as well as workshops and family activities.

The exhibition will be complemented by a new publication Elias Sime: Eregata እርጋታ , featuring commissioned essays by curator Andria Hickey, Chief Curator The Shed, New York, and architect Nana Biamah-Ofosu, exploring Sime’s work and Zoma Museum (co-founded by Sime and Meskerem Assegued in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia). The book is available via the Arnolfini Bookshop.

A colour photograph of the Zoma Museum building. It is clad in patterned clay and has a sign that says Zoma Museum in Amharic and English.
Arnolfini visit to Zoma July 2023. Image by Alice Hendy Photography for Arnolfini. All rights reserved.

Audio Descriptions of some of the works featured in Elias Sime: Eregata

Explore Elias Sime: Eregata with Arnolfini’s Gallery Guide by clicking on the link below.

About the Artist

artist Elias Sime sits at a table, head down, concentrating on the creative activity in front of him on a table.

Elias Sime

Elias Sime (born 1968 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) has exhibited extensively around the world.

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