Curators Corner

Elias Sime’s ‘Elias Sime: Dichotomy ፊት አና ጀርባ’ is at the 60th International Art Exhibition in Venice

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Elias Sime’s Elias Sime: Dichotomy ፊት አና ጀርባ addresses the impact of globalisation and technology on the human psyche. Having debuted in April 2024, the exhibition consists of 11 new artworks including nine new wall works, a stone sculpture, and a site-specific installation, which will all be on show until the 24th of November 2024 at Spazio Tana, Castello, in Italy. Using materials that form the backbone of all digital communication, Sime crafts dimensional meditations that encourage sustained contemplation. Co-curated by the artist’s longtime collaborator Meskerem Assegued as well as Felicity Korn, who is a curator at the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Dichotomy ፊት አና ጀርባ illuminates the tenuousness in humanity’s private and public dualities.

Image of ELIAS SIME's THE EARTH (ምድር) V, 2023-4
ELIAS SIME, THE EARTH (ምድር) V, 2023-4, Braided electrical wires and electronic components on panel, 185.4 x 279.4 x 14 cm, Image courtesy of James Cohen website

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1968, Sime weaves, layers and assembles carefully selected everyday materials, which transforms commonplace items into lyrical abstract compositions that suggest topography, figuration, and color fields. Sime’s use of color, pattern, and grids often reference natural landscapes, evoking both the environment and humankind’s imprint on the earth. Other than this exhibition, Sime has used this technique of creating with the Tightrope series, which he first began developing in 2009. This series looked at the centrality of the smartphone in everyday life, the smartphone as a status symbol, as well as a metaphor for the fraught systems powering global communication today. This is despite the common knowledge that the smartphone is powered by precious metals which are mined under punishing conditions, which raises serious ethical and ecological concerns. For this exhibition, in the entryway from the canal to the interior exhibition space in Venice is a site-specific installation placed with panels of electronic components and electrical wires in direct dialogue with the ancient infrastructure of the city.

Image of ELIAS SIME's Tightrope: Dichotomy 5, 2023-24
ELIAS SIME, Tightrope: Dichotomy 5, 2023-24, Electrical components and electrical wires on wooden panel,
231.1 x 360.7 x 22.9 cm, Image courtesy of James Cohen website

Sime’s work achieves effects from dense narrative to modernist abstraction. He is as interested in a stripped motherboard from a mobile phone as he is an animal skull or worn-out button as he finds renewal everywhere, and takes the greatest interest in how objects and ideas can connect in new ways. Working with Assegued, Sime co-founded, designed, and built the award-winning Zoma Museum in Addis Ababa, an environmentally conscious international art center. Zoma Museum includes a gallery space, library, children’s center, edible garden, elementary school, art and vernacular school, amphitheater, cafe, and museum shop. As an extension of this architectural practice, Sime has recently begun to develop a series of freestanding carved stone sculptures whose sinuous forms echo the vernacular architecture of the museum. Dichotomy ፊት አና ጀርባ will feature the latest work from this ongoing series. Selected works from this exhibition will later be included in a comprehensive retrospective of Sime’s at the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, the exhibition’s organising institution, from March to June 2025.

Red flowers emerge from left and right side of red panels and grow toward the middle
ELIAS SIME, Tightrope: It is Green 4, 2023, Electrical wires on panels
208.3 x 200.7 x 7.6 cm, Image courtesy of James Cohen website


Lelethu Sobekwa was born in Gqeberha, South Africa. She holds a BA Honours in English and an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Rhodes University. Lelethu currently writes for Art Network Africa.

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