Tegene Kunbi Ethiopia, b. 1980

Tegene Kunbi is an Ethiopian abstract contemporary painter whose practice deals with issues of place, politics, and the nature of abstraction. Working from small to large scale, Kunbi’s works have developed into a distinct signature use of colour blocking and mixing, heavy textured use of oil, mixed with bright colorful patterned textiles that refer to his home country, Ethiopia.


With a defined interest in landscape and the dialectic power of colour and form, Kunbi’s practice is a contraction of push and bull between the materiality of the works and his subject matter. Referencing the land and cultural signifiers of his home country, he searches for harmony between all the elements at play. He layers texture upon texture, and colour upon colour as he looks for the character within each work. It is the challenge of everyday that defines the possible future outcomes of each work which is an amalgamation of time he spends with each piece. The result are maps of places, people, and lived histories.


Tegene Kunbi’s practice also demonstrates his study and analysis of painting history. Formally educated in the Western European and Russian academic tradition of realism, his work looks to break down notions of landscape. What he considers a rebellious act that falls in parallel to the historical understanding and function of abstraction, he looks to demonstrate a painterly and abstracted understanding of material, colour, and the notion of nostalgia to break the limitations of visual representation. 


Tegene Kunbi (b. 1980 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) received his BFA from the University of Addis Ababa in 2004. He continued his education at the Universitȁt der Künste Berlin. In 2022 he was awarded the Léopold Sédar Senghor prize from the President of the Republic as part of his participation in the Dakar Biennale. He has held solo exhibitions at Bode in Berlin (2023); Barbara Thumm in Berlin (2022); Primo Marella Gallery in Milan (2022); Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi (2019), among others. He has also participated in group exhibition in CH HILL in Stockholm (2021); SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin (2021); Margaret Thatcher Projects in New York (2020), and more. Tegene Kunbi currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.