By Morgan Booth
Yared Nigussu is an internationally renowned painter working out of Vancouver. The saturated use of colour and free-flowing movement in his work keeps the eye darting from one brush stroke to the next. With a wide range of subject matter from portraits to landscapes, the vibrant expression and drama in each piece is undeniable. Yared holds the title of being the first ever Art Battle National Champion after dominating in both the Vancouver Finals and Toronto Championship in 2012.
Describe your perfect day in Vancouver.
My perfect day starts with a cup of coffee in my place and a walk to the gallery near by my home, in order to get some inspiration – I always learn from other artists. I am lucky enough to live in the center of Vancouver’s gallery area. Most of my day is packed with having a coffee or meeting a friend for lunch, then it’s time for me to shut down the rest of the world in my studio and concentrate on only my paintings.
You are the current Art Battle National Champion! Tell us a little about your Art Battle journey, how did you first get involved?
My art battle journey started with a simple call from Steve Merkley from raw canvas saying “Hey Bro, Raw Canvas is hosting Art Battle and we thought that you would love it and be a great fit!” At first I didn’t understand what it was about, then after asking more about the concept, my answer was “YES, I AM IN!” I am so happy with my Art Battle journey. I won all the Art Battle competitions in Vancouver as well as the championship in Toronto. It was a great opportunity to meet and paint with Toronto’s great artists like Keita Morimoto.
Both Vancouver and Toronto’s audiences gave me their votes and their love! It is very important for an artist to get one step ahead, it helped me to reconnect with many talented artists and art lovers.
As an artist who has worked in Ethiopia, France, Austria and now Canada, how has the range of cultural experiences impacted your work?
I think my work has some changes and evolution from time to time and place to place as my painting is a reflection of the culture where I am. I try to think like a Canadian while I am in Canada. When I am in Austria, France or Ethiopia my thoughts and artwork change according to their cultural influences.
I am working in several different subject matters, I paint portrait, city scape, nude paintings and a collage style painting where I bring unrelated subject matter together and let the audience to create their own statements about the painting.
What’s on your studio playlist, do you find that music informs the energy of the piece you are working on?
I like to work with music every time when I am in my studio. Music is my company. I have an eclectic choice of music from all parts of the worlds.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you paint in last years National Championships in Toronto, there was so much life in your pieces! When you approach a live painting, do you go in with a plan, or let the work evolve organically?
I see first the image in my mind, and try to do what I see inside my head. Painting is a kind of deja vu for me, and the result is always different from what I intended. That is why I still keep painting. When I achieve the exact picture in my mind, that might be the end of my artistic journey. One thing what I know is I am always learning from my art while I am painting.
You recently had a huge piece displayed at the US Consulate in Vancouver in honour of Barak Obama’s second inauguration, do you feel participating in international discussion with your work is important as an artist?
I painted the big painting of Obama just a week before his re-election and I finished the work on January 14th. At first I had just painted the piece for my private collection but there were a lot of people and friends asking what I was going to do with it. So I decided to send a letter to the White House and the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. I was lucky enough that the U.S. consulate accepted to display the portrait of Barak Obama in their office.
Just as music is a world language, visual art has its own ability to impact and express feeling, and has a big role in creating opportunity for discussion internationally as well. We all are part of the show in everything that’s going on next door. We need to discuss with out border or limit.