When the bomb explodes … Fragmentation, napalm, famine, insanity, BADABOUM! It’s as beautiful as a Godard film (*). When Pierrot strikes the match. Beautiful, like Marylin, or a Campbell soup, same media broth. In a few minutes, the president announces … that the bomb is sponsored, that it is social and beneficial, that it is a necessity of the market! BOUM, against a background of music by Hendrix, as beautiful as Wagner’s chorus, out of the helicopters of the US Air Force. APOCALYPSE NOW! Beautiful as a bouillon cube. Everything is for sale. Everything must disappear.
Dereje Shiferaw is a « political » painter, who knows how much war is « advertising » manipulation. He paints a child in the middle of the bombs, as in a beautiful packaging. Explosions are like the superheroes in his other paintings, and the limousines that make you dream and Mrs. Monroe, which they will end up killing! POP ART? It is first and foremost a way of saying « no » to manipulation. Dereje talks about the war, but not only. Between the lines, it is of the West that he speaks, which sells the wound and the bandage, and which paints it as it wishes. NO.
“Stop telling us stories. We know the motivation, we know the expected profit, and the number of deaths required in this business. » Dereje Shiferaw
The artist here takes his subject as closely as possible to words. Remember Hendrix playing the US anthem with his teeth. Can you hear the helicopters passing by? And this delicate fragrance, hemmed in black and yellow, this sumptuous tapestry that napalm draws on the green of the rice paddy? POP ART, man, that makes sense! And that’s where it comes down to. “Stop telling us stories. We know the motivation, we know the expected profit, and the number of deaths required in this business. We’ve had the same scenario here, for decades. And it continues. This morning is war again. ” He points his finger, and his colors are then those of the publicist, the salesman of guns, anti-personnel mines and anti-dandruff shampoo.
The more we watch Dereje Shiferaw’s series, the better we understand the gulf that separates him from certain painters, in whom Pop-art holds a heavenly promise. Canvases that copy each other identically, relieving and silly, in accordance with the prevailing ideology. Dereje can explain to them, with the appropriate words (and the dead), the sad end of this « made in » story …
Regardless of the color of the flag, American, or French, or Chinese, the victims are always the same. Dereje articulates the canvas and the colors in the exact sense they had at the end of the Sixties. It was in Vietnam, it was in Central Africa, in the East too and at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. NO! The painter and the refusal. It is not a canvas, it is a samizdat! Green, red, blue, slamming chrome: sometimes this fireworks display is darker than black!
Roger Calmé (ZO mag ‘)
Photo: D Shiferaw. (*) Pierrot le fou (1965), Jean-Luc Godard.