London Artist’s portrait of Ethiopian on display at the Royal Academy Summer Show

10 Jul 2018

London-based British artist Catherine Chambers’ portrait of her Ethiopian friend, Girma, is currently on display at the Royal Academy Summer Show, which runs until 19th August.

Portrait of Girma by Catherine Chambers

Girma is a tailor from Ethiopia’s historic city of Lalibela, which has become Catherine’s second home due to her frequent visits and links with the local community.

Now in its 250th anniversary, the exhibition displays works in a variety of mediums and genres by emerging and established artists. This year’s edition is curated by Grayson Perry RA and will be the biggest in its history with over 1,200 works on display.

In an exclusive with the Embassy, Catherine told us that she is inspired by the environment around her and spending much of her time in Ethiopia, naturally many of her paintings involve her friends there.

“My degree is in drawing and I used to work solely in pencil, I liked colour and appreciated painters but had not found the inspiration or confidence to work in this way…After university I visited Uganda, where the bright bold use of colour completely woke me up. I came back to England desperate to use such colours but did not have a subject I was truly passionate about,” she said.

Catherine then planned a trip to travel through Africa, with Ethiopia being her starting point down to South Africa.

“I had allowed myself two weeks in Ethiopia, but when I arrived the rich culture and the genuine friendliness of the people completely captured me, and I did not want to leave!”

Two weeks turned into a month, then I left but only reached as far as Tanzania before turning back to spend another 3 months exploring Ethiopia! In this time, I made friends that are as dear to me as family, and a second home in Lalibela, where I visit as often as possible now,” she added.

“On my first return to London, I was given a great opportunity to be artist in residence through the Kentish Town Improvement Trust. I used this opportunity to paint the people I had met and the stories I had heard during my time in Ethiopia. A few years on I am still full to the brim with inspiration from Ethiopia, and it continues to be a focus in my work.”

Catherine at work in her studio in London

“I paint people who stand out to me, usually people I am in awe of…To paint them is to pay them respect in a way…To have one of my portraits selected for the Royal Academy Summer Show is an honour and I am happy to share the wonders of Ethiopia with the large audience that the Royal Academy attracts.”

During her time in Ethiopia, Catherine explored the art scene there where she has many artist friends. In 2017, she curated the exhibition “Peace” at the Italian Cultural Institute for three Ethiopian artists.

Catherine’s portrait of Yeabsra

Catherine hopes one day to have the opportunity to exhibit her own paintings within Ethiopia. “I take so much inspiration from Ethiopia, I hope one day to bring some back! I mainly paint ‘ordinary’ people who may never have been to an exhibition before. To have the opportunity for the people I paint to see their own portraits in real life would be truly special, for me and for them – particularly my painting of Yeabsra, who is as good as family to me, she was the first portrait I painted and my true muse!”

 

Catherine at the Summer Exhibition with her painting of Girma at the top, in the main room, Grayson Perry’s yellow room.

——–

The RA Summer Exhibition runs daily from 12th June – 19th August 2018, 10am – 6pm, and 10am – 10pm on Fridays, at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Tickets: £18 (without donation £16). Concessions available. Under-16s go free with a fee-paying adult.

For more information, visit bit.ly/RASummer18.

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