"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.

Tariku Shiferaw is a fascinating young artist who is starting to make waves. He was born in Ethiopia and relocated to California when he was a child with his family. His earliest influence was his older brother who was a gifted draftsman and illustrator, but who chose to pursue a career in business instead of the arts.

Tariku paints with plastic, tape, paint and other materials, exploring his role as a painter through simple shapes, textures, and blocks of color.

Anthony Philip Fine Art: What are you trying to say with the work and what is your current work about?

Tariku Shiferaw: My work is about markmaking. Following in the traditional conversation of painting and making marks and gestures that interrogate the space. A mark, like in the caveman days, says “I am here” or “I was here.” It reveals the thinker behind the gesture. It’s some sort of evidence that someone was there prior to the marks to affect the space. I believe the identity of the mark-maker is as equally important as the mark itself. Or else, the context can be blurred and forgotten behind the physical aesthetics. 

I am currently working on a series titled, “One of These Black Boys.” It’s predominantly a body of black paintings on plastic surfaces. The titles are equally important as the paintings. I use hip-hop, R&B, Jazz, and Reggae music titles and song-lines to title the work. In choosing to reference certain songs, I address the black body in the current societal space. The life-sized paintings reference the representation of the body. Moreover, I’m interested in the music and lyrical genius that comes from certain artist that have or currently are affecting and changing our world. To mention a few, Kendrick Lamar’s song “King Kunta,” Nas and Lauryn Hills’ “If I Ruled The World,” Bob Marly’s song, “War,” have resonated with me for a long time and speak in ways I want my paintings to speak. 

APFA: What was a breakthrough moment in your art?

TS: There are two that come to mind. The first was the summer of 2014. It was a breakthrough moment in a sense that after talking theory, painting, and painters throughout my first year in my MFA program, I finally had the chance to paint for months uninterruptedly. In that time, my work began to further mature aesthetically and conceptually. 

The second moment I consider a breakthrough was in 2015-2016 year, where I got lucky enough to get a studio right after grad school and continued producing and building on the progress. I’ve had many friends and colleagues come through for conversations, and it’s been a growing experience. 

APFA: What kind of media do you use? Tell us about why you chose that media.

TS: I use acrylic paint. I paint on canvas mostly, but recently I’ve been experimenting with other materials such as plastic. I’ve been stretching the plastic in place of the canvas. There’s quite a satisfaction that comes from using this material. In a way, it’s taking place of the other, but more importantly for its ambiguity. It’s had to tell what it is or what it does until it’s doing it. 

If you would like to fine out more about Tariku and his work, please visit his website at: http://tarikushiferaw.com