Though modest in size, Merikokeb Berhanu’s (b. 1977) studio in Silver Spring, Maryland, has been the birthplace of many universes. Replete with meticulous cell-like networks, winding organic forms, and hovering celestial shapes, each of Merikokeb’s vibrant canvases offers their viewer the sublime experience of stepping out of this world and into an entirely new one.


A relatively recent transplant to the United States, Merikokeb was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She received her BFA from the Alle School of Fine Art and Design in Addis Ababa in 2002, where she studied painting under the tutelage of a generation of Ethiopian modernist painters. The next fifteen years were spent quietly developing her work, and crafting her idiosyncratic visual language that so deftly toes the line between pure abstraction and recognisable form.


Despite this rich symbolism, Merikokeb’s primary aim in the act of painting is to create ambiguous realms, which she hopes her audience will connect with on a level of emotion that surpasses logical reasoning or verbal explanation. Her completed works are characterised by a sense of otherworldly transcendence and offer the viewer the sensation of a lightening of the body coupled with an expansion of the soul.