Exhibition ‘Choking Flames’ at Kusseneers Gallery

In Kusseneers Gallery, an important gallery in the heart of Molenbeek Brussels, we witnessed a visual conversation between two progressive artists with very intriguing work: Ermias Kifleyesus and Els Opsomer.

Text and pictures Hans Knol ten Bensel

Ermias is of Ethiopian background and has already established a reputation as an artist using oil painting and sculpture in a very original way, distancing himself from the digital art with artworks which have a distinct message. He has had several solo shows in Belgium, including Grapes Darken by Looking at Each Other, Kusseneers (2018), Changing World you are my Anchor, Brussels (2017), About People, Brussels (2016), Humidity and the Mystery of Traces (2014).

Els Opsomer (left) with Ermias Kifleyesus (right) at Kusseneers Gallery.

We interviewed Ermias Kifleyesus at Kusseneers Gallery, together with Els Opsomer. “I invited Els to collaborate and to create our art” says Ermias, “my idea was to do something dynamic and creative here in Molenbeek, at the heart of Brussels. Here you see what we have done together. We work from this gallery and are deeply connected to the society here.” “We know each other because our children go to the same school and it is important to have this artistic friendship, because I am convinced that the way how we look at things is completely different, so we confront and equally combine the way how we do it as an artist. I am a photographer, film maker, visual artist, and Irmias is painter”, says Els.  

Large canvas by Ermias depicting the individualisation of our world.

“In this exhibition he also asked me to do a conversation,” says Els, “and this has connected us. It is a conversation within this atelier, but it is also making a connection with the audience which is very important. I make screen prints, serigraphy, representing visual thoughts, in the sense that you put images together, resulting in a kind of story. Because my husband is from Senegal, the portraits are from my children and from my husband. The idea of having this conversation is also that we can look at things differently and give expression to this.”

The serigraphics of Els Opsomer tell a story.
Els Opsomer depicts the onlooker and the scene combining it in a story.

Els comments further on the intriguing sculptures made by Ermias for this exhibition: “He incorporated in the sculptures small details of his paintings.

Details of paintings worked into the sculpture.

These sculptures are also depicting opposites, like a king and a queen, but also opposite poles within the same person, like the lizard and the witch, and this Ermias tried to depict in his sculptures.

“In my sculptures I want to bring the message that every movement, every gesture we make, changes the world”, says Ermias. “My sculptures throw a small shadow, and this changes it into art, and like for me, a small movement or gesture is so important. I then zoom in to micro level, and I go deep and create those elegant sculptures. I think that, at this moment, as a society, we need to think deep, every gesture, every movement we do changes the world, that is why our work is very much connected to history and to nature, and also in the dark period we are living now, we have to ask ourselves how can we bring a positive gesture or movement to add on it and make it a better life.”

“Els works a lot with new generations, and we have also a lot of young artists come to my studio and make a research of me, we are very much connected to the new generation, and that is very important”, Ermias continues.

We were then drawn to a wall sculpture consisting of drops of clay, heated to dry up and then attached to the wall of the gallery.

Dried clay against the wall.

Ermias commented: “At this time, the rising temperatures we all endure causes our relation to the sun to change. We asked ourselves, how can we include it and express it in our work, as indeed in nature, clay holds water, and when you put it in an oven to change it into ceramics, it needs to lose this water. That was our concept. When the water evaporates, it leaves a trace. It is symbolic for our situation today: we all cry, we all live a different story, different things which make us cry, and at the same time our whole world is crying a little bit. We might have to keep the clay wet, to survive…

“The work above is view of a crowd of people from above, a top view” Ermias said, “because the problem is that we live in a society thinking individually, as a pointillist, we are in an era where individualism prevails. This I depict in the picture with many points. They actually have to come together, we need a multi polarized world in order to survive.”

You can see the compelling work of both artists at Kusseneers Gallery, Menenstraat Rue de Menin, 10, 1080 Brussels. Open on Thu-Sat 11-18.00. The exhibition runs until February 18.

Further info: tel. 0475-65.11.09,

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