Early in his artistic life, Yared Nigussu was deeply influenced by the life and works of Italian painter, Amedeo Modigliani, who wrote, “when I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.” Today, almost 100 years after Modigliani’s death, the young, 33-year-old Nigussu garners much of his inspiration from faces. Currently working on a series of immigrant portraits, Yared states that, “eyes can hide a lot of stories and that is an infinite source of inspiration for me.”

Inspired by the beauty of human shapes and colours and focused on the human gaze,Yared is a keen observer and fascinated by the stories behind the faces. His most symbolic portrait is that of a former child soldier that Yared created after the friend’s tearful confession. The painting depicts the deep sadness and desperate look of a child whose childhood had been stolen.

Painting is Yared natural language. Intuitive and powerful, his brush strokes communicate a symbolic vocabulary that visually translates a depth of emotion. Known for his painterly large-scale portraits and urban landscapes, Yared’s work has a palpable energy that is optimistic and thoughtful, much like Yared himself.

Fusing undisguised brushstrokes with mixed media, rendered in a bright, opulent palette, Yared’s paintings are provocative and convey a narrative much deeper than the mere appearance of the subject. Paint drippings and densely laden dashes of vivid colour, juxtaposed with contrasting imagery and hues, create a deeply sensorial experience for the viewer.

Captivated by the layers in his portraits, one can almost hear the soft breath of the subject.

Graduating in 2005, from the Addis Ababa University of Fine Arts and Design, Yared earned a degree in Art and Education, with a major in painting. Awarded a scholarship to France where he taught art and studied French, Nigussu’s career was established when he began exhibiting his work in France and Austria. After moving to Canada, Yared was inspired by the energy, light and urban perspective in his new home of Vancouver and has won Canada’s National Art Battle live competition for three years in a row in Toronto and Vancouver in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Collected internationally, Nigussu’s work is currently showing in Victoria, BC, Vancouver, and Toronto. 

Yared Nigussu was the recipient of the 2015 SAGE Award for Social Acceptance of Great Excellence.          

Biography by Michelle Hoslop