Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Girmachew Getnet: Circle Series 2020-2021




Girmachew Getnet: Circle Series







My Philosophy

In my art series “Circle”, I create an atmosphere; a space between reality and fantasy; a mirrored world. It is where I practice more of the spiritual and physical conscious observations, questions, answers and results of my long individual research about our existence; where we came from, where we are going, and who we really are.

In this journey, I realized that there is no I but US. Our individual existence depends on our collective being despite our differences in status, race, gender, age, and religion. Thereafter, I express myself as a form of a circle and a cycle of many different colored characters; One being encompassing nations within himself.


As circle is an inclusive yet a vast and deep foundation, it holds our differences together as one form. Within a circle, we are the same and we are different. If you look at the universe, you can see the vast consciousness formed from what accounts to nothing. We as humans spend too much time trying to trace our way back to this consciousness responsible for our existence.

My Process

The philosophy of a circle follows me everywhere and in everything I do. When I paint, I first start with myself, my studio and everything it provides me with; from materials to a peace of mind, my surrounding, the country, the globe, the universe, its history, and then come back to myself and try to answer my questions in a form of a contemporary art. I bring different forms and colors all together to create one piece. But by the end of the day, they all mean one thing.
My artistic inspiration starts in the morning when I wake up. But no day would be the same as the day before, it’s always different. Yet, there is no great inspiration except to start the day. Just like a circle, it’s a beginning of the end, the same book but a new page, and one page can change the whole story of the book.


Traveling is another part of my life where my inspiration emerges from. I travel to know our world, its places, the people in it, the dying and the surviving languages spoken, the meals, the cultures practiced, the gods and goddesses, and the sins and sanctions to know our world better. On this journey to learn about the origin of us, I was able to learn a lot about myself not only as an Ethiopian born human but as a human nation.


In October 2020, I travelled to Savona, Italy. During my vacation I observed a situation which helped me strengthen my philosophy I still use in my art. My son built a beautiful big circular pyramid on the beach. That night, the wave of a storm took everything and when we went back to the beach the next day, there was nothing left. My son was very sad but he did not give up. He built a bigger and more beautiful pyramid. This pyramid was different from the other one because he put a strong stone on the sand as a foundation. It appeared graceful. The next morning I woke up at 6 o’clock and took a walk to the beach. I saw how his pyramid stood peacefully and even stronger because the storm wave put more sand on it! And I thought to myself, that’s it! Circle!
Hundreds of thousands of cubes come together to support one another on their way up staying still for thousands of years. Different materials, shapes, and colors to form one stable form.

My Art

Humans are social beings despite modernity trying to keep us apart. We are driven by emotions and connections that are interconnected with other people, places, and culture to mention the least. Even when we’re disconnected from others and our surrounding, we go back to ourselves looking within in search of our root and ourselves.


In my paintings, I use different colored human figures to represent the differences in our views, origin, history, gender, and everything that makes up a being. Before I start, I try to put myself in their shoes to better understand them.

The circle of life is a symbolic representation of birth, survival and death. It’s the cycle we humans go through to keep life in motion. An eternal motion that consists of acts of love, revolution, war, an ongoing energy expanding our limits we can reach as humans. And so, the different colored characters come together on my card board. Sometimes they would be facing outwards and other times they would be facing inwards with their backs to the external world. I believe there are universal problems that can be solved by coming together and facing the issue. Other times, the change would have to start from within us and so we come together as nations to fix our roots.

In the making of “Circle” art series, I used acrylic on a card board with techniques such as collage art and scratching. Size does not limit me, I use small and large formats. I would sometimes I start small and end up with a huge piece of art. When I am painting, I let completely go and just play with a drawing, lines and shading, light and shadow, and even perspective. Even though I entertain applying light and shadow on the figures, I don’t use following shadows on the ground of the atmosphere I create. I treat this atmosphere as the space between reality and fantasy with surrealistic images.

To accompany this philosophy, I play with different characters, scales, shapes, and figures. In some of my paintings, you’ll see people all together forming a circle within a square which is again within a triangle. With this concept, I aim to address whatever the situation, the limit, difference in perspective and intention, we all should come together for steadiness.



Now after 4 years, I am working on the circle once again. 2020, having introduced Covid-19, one of the hardest events to humanity alongside with wars happening everywhere around us, urged me to test the line forming our circle. I designed this art project to bring people together using visual art. I believe it is our last chance to serve the wave of the storm. I have been working on the art philosophy of the circle since 2010 to better understand our difference and coexist, to build a bridge between the differences standing between us. And in all my years after graduation, I have built many bridges in through my art. I decided to return to this project after ten years because it is our
only chance as humanity to survive this wave, just the way the pyramid resisted to give in to the night storm. It is my wish and dream to see all humans to stick together and take care of each other for a stronger, graceful, and stable, existence that could last for years to come.
“Totality, wholeness, original perfection, the self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, non-existence and eternity, no beginning and no end, sun, Universe, center, power, energy, enlightenment, Time” being some of the words many associate circle with, I believe the philosophy of a Circle is indeed sacred where our survival lies upon. (text thr artist)

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