Student Work

  • Fine Arts (MFA)

    Tariku Shiferaw

    Abstract Markings: Between Meaning and Aesthetics

    There is something fascinating about contradictions, glitches, interruptions, and disagreements, which cause a reconsideration of a system. While addressing certain formalist concerns through compositional elements such as color, line, shape, texture, and gesture, I disrupt the formal harmony in art through various contradictions. Pavement markings and symbols with numerous meanings have influenced my approach to capturing forms and concepts that exist between meaning and abstraction. The juxtaposition of recognizable and unrecognizable forms, in which one has preexisting meaning and the other is completely abstract, creates a dialectical relationship both visually and conceptually. Ironically, this disagreement becomes the foundation in which harmony is created. Recognizable forms such as geometric shapes or X’s are symbols with assigned language often carrying numerous meanings, which is sometimes unrelated or contradictory to other existing meanings. For instance, X has many meanings and each one of them functions autonomously, orchestrating the necessary system-glitch. In Math, X is an unknown variable until it is discovered. Then, it becomes obsolete. It can no longer continue to be “X” when the unknown variable is discovered. The concept of X solely functioning as a temporary placeholder for an unknown variable speaks to my interest in marking space through painterly markmaking. Inevitably, by using this form, every function associated with X is automatically projected onto my work. This symbolic projection of X interrupts the way my paintings are read and skeptically questions the concept of abstraction. Yet this skepticism is extremely necessary. Through contradictions and intentional inconsistencies, my work challenges systems of visual language, and how the visual presence of these markings changes our spatial experience.