Lulseged Retta (b. 1952) is one of Ethiopia's preeminent modernist painters. His work amalgamates and reimagines traditional Ethiopian artistic themes and modernists styles, harmoniously coalesced for a contemporary audience. Retta's paintings are informed by a multitude of influences, including Ethiopian Orthodox Church art, his love of music (which he infuses rhythmically into his compositions), and his interpretation of Ethiopia's rich cultural history. Retta attended the Addis Ababa University, School of Fine Arts and Design graduating with a diploma and moving to the then USSR in the 1980s in order to complete an MFA at the Academy of Art Repina (now modern-day St Petersburg). He has since become one of Ethiopia's most prolific painters.
Retta's first source of inspiration came from Orthodox church paintings and the works of Gebrekristos Desta and Afework Tekle. Now, Retta's distinctively Ethiopian paintings have come to define modern Ethiopian art. His works offer layers of meaning, offering simple aesthetic pleasures to the uninitiated eye and a deeply complex philosophical perspective to those familiar with his style. These works require analysis, revealing the landscape, culture and history that have come to influence him over the years. Retta has worked hard for several decades offering his own interpretation of beauty through his own unique artistic viewpoint. He has delved into his own identity and the history of Ethiopia in order to create these pieces which convey a critical perspective on what it means to be Ethiopian. Ethiopian themes and African patterns are apparent in his portraits, musical pieces, paintings depicting daily activities and works of a philosophical nature. His works have an air of affluence to them stemming from the colors that enhance the viewer's experience; creating a connection to a deeply wealthy and culturally saturated past.
Retta's unique style has inspired generations of Ethiopian artists and he remains an important figure in African contemporary art. He has exhibited his works in Ethiopia and various other African countries as well as in Europe, Asia and across the United States. Retta has also worked to promote Ethiopian art and artists nationally and abroad, helping organize the annual Art of Ethiopia art fair at the Sheraton Addis Hotel. He frequently collaborates with other artists and is highly engaged in the social sphere, following the belief that art is a reflection of our culture and values.