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.

Latest News

Browse all
The first Ethiopian Diaspora Festival since the establishment of the Ethiopian Diaspora Agency is set to take place in Addis Ababa between 27-29 August 2019. All Ethiopian community members in the United Kingdom are invited to join diaspora from around the world to attend the Festival.
26 Jul 2019
Ethiopian Diaspora Festival 2019
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is among nominees for the 2019 Chatham House Prize, presented to the person, persons or organization deemed to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations. Other nominees are Sir David Attenborough and Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
19 Jul 2019
Prime Minister Abiy among Chatham House Prize 2019 Nominees
Much to the chagrin of most Ethiopians, as well as Ethiopia’s development partners, an attempted coup took place on the 22 June 2019 in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Regional State of Amhara. Five officials were killed in the foiled coup, led by the ringleader Brigadier General Asamenew Tsiege.
16 Jul 2019
A shortcut to power is a wrong cut to power
London hosted government ministers and officials, the diplomatic community, journalists, academics and members of civil society, in the first-of-its-kind Global Conference on Media Freedom. Ethiopia was represented by Ambassador Fesseha Shawel and Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Billene Seyoum.
12 Jul 2019
Ethiopia takes part in first Global Conference on Media Freedom
Parliament approved a $13.4 billion budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year that began on 8th July. Compared to the previous budget year, this year’s is 12% higher. The government says it will increase investments in key sectors such as agriculture, energy and mining. It also plans to attract more FDI.
9 Jul 2019
Parliament approves $13.4 billion 2019/20 budget
Around 17 British energy companies will be visiting Ethiopia from 14th – 19th July as part of the Energy Catalyst Mission. The key objectives of the mission are to help companies applying for Energy Catalyst Round 7 to obtain an understanding of the energy access issues in Ethiopia and gain links to potential partners.
8 Jul 2019
British energy firms visit Ethiopia to explore opportunities
State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign Tolina, announced plans to grant two telecom licences to private firms and sell a 49% minority stake in Ethio Telecom – a venture that will see foreign multinationals entering one of Africa’s largest markets. The firms are expected to enter Ethiopia’s telecoms market by 2020.
7 Jul 2019
Ethiopia opens telecoms market to foreign investment
On 29th June, the Embassy hosted an exclusive event celebrating Ethiopian food and culture with renowned Ethiopian chef and Guild of Food Writers nominee, Yohanis Gebreyesus Hailemariam, in the presence of Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Fesseha Shawel Gebre, and around eighty guests.
5 Jul 2019
Chef Yohanis: Putting Ethiopian Food on the Culinary Map
Coca-Cola highlights Ethiopia’s investment potential in new campaign. The Going Big in Ethiopia campaign features companies engaged in coffee, textiles, logistics, manufacturing and other industries, talking about the vast opportunities the Ethiopian economy offers to global investors.
28 Jun 2019
Going Big in Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines, was voted the ‘Best Airline in Africa’ (for the third consecutive year), ‘Best Business Class in Africa’ and ‘Best Economy Class in Africa’ at the 2019 Skytrax World Airlines Awards. On 21st June the airline marked its 6-month anniversary of the direct flight from Manchester to Addis Ababa.
26 Jun 2019
Ethiopian Airlines voted ‘Best Airline in Africa’ + Manchester celebrates 6-month anniversary
In their first adventure together, Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness head to Ethiopia, where they drive through stunning landscapes of Ethiopia to reach the Afar Triangle - the hottest place on earth! Top Gear Producers and presenters said that filming in Ethiopia was the “highlight” of the series.
25 Jun 2019
Top Gear: Ethiopia episode highlight of the series