Galerie Ron Mandos is proud to present the exhibition ‘The Dogs Bark, But The Caravan Goes On’ by Esiri Erheriene-Essi (UK, 1982). Erheriene-Essi graduated from the University of East London before completing the post-graduate residency at the prestigious De Ateliers in Amsterdam. In 2009 she won the esteemed Dutch Royal Painting prize.

“One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: ‘I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.’ Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no one seemed to share it, nor even to understand it (life consists of these little touches of solitude), I forgot about it.”
Roland Barthes – Camera Lucida


“Just like Roland Barthes, I happen on a lot of photographs that evoke feelings of amazement and I save these images (and the feelings I get from them) in an ever-growing archive. It is from this collection that I select source material for my paintings. I am interested a great deal by history – particularly images, objects, and documents which we can return to, in order to examine both individual and shared memories. The archive is important to me, as it is through these links that I continuously question history. I play with the order of events, the discrepancies, silences, and interruptions – as an assault on the canonical historical narrative. With hindsight, bias and curiosity I take these silences and discrepancies, bring them up to the surface and re-edit the narrative continually in the hope of robbing history of some of its tyrannical power by creating new scenarios. I am incessantly attempting to change our reading of history and to imagine more humane and liberating narratives.

The figures depicted on the canvas in ‘The Dogs Bark, But The Caravan Goes On’ feature individuals, families and groups of people that (in the 60s, 70s and 80s) migrated from countries in West, Central and East Africa, Suriname, The Caribbean and Haiti in order to establish new lives in Western countries, such as Britain, America, France, The Netherlands etc. The people in these paintings may not have looked at someone as famous as Napoleon, yet I am equally or perhaps even more amazed and captivated by what these people have seen, who they are (or perhaps were) and the relationships that they had with each other, with the person who photographed them, and the world at large.”
Esiri Erheriene-Essi Esiri

Erheriene-Essi received her education at Camberwell College of Arts, and the University of East London, before completing her post graduate residency at De Ateliers in Amsterdam. She has been nominated for the Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs, and has exhibited in Museum of Modern Art Arnhem, Koninklijk Paleis op de Dam, Amsterdam, Museum het Dolhuys, Haarlem, and Arti et Amicitiae amongst others. Her works are included in public and private collections throughout the Netherlands and internationally.

ABOUT Esiri Erheriene-Essi

Born in 1982 in London, United Kingdom
Lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Esiri Erheriene-Essi is predominately a painter of mid to large-scale paintings concerned with figuration, history and society. She is captivated by history – in particular, images, objects, and documents which we can return to, in order to examine both individual and shared memories and histories. A large part of her practice entails collecting and creating an archive, which could potentially become incorporated into her work. Archives are important to the artist as they create links and orders that she can question and play with – she searches for the discrepancies, the silences, in order to, through painting, create interruptions and assaults on the canonical historical narrative. With hindsight, bias and curiosity, she takes these discordances and brings them up to the surface. Erheriene-Essi continuously re-edits the narratives with the hope of robbing history of some of its tyrannical power by creating new scenarios. Or rather, she is incessantly attempting to imagine more humane and liberating narratives than what has gone before. In the process she perhaps slightly changes our readings of history and thereby shows how we write the present.

In her work, Erheriene-Essi makes many references to popular culture, because popular culture is profoundly mythic and loaded. The canvases she makes are a theatre of popular desires and fantasies, where we all can discover and play with the process of identification. These ‘theatrical scenes’ show the imagined as well as the underrepresented, not only to the viewer but also to the artist herself. The paintings ‘play’ in their own way – they are telling a story, even though the scenes have no beginning, middle or end – they are cut off mid flow, out of context, are frozen, silent and still. Yet they have ‘sound’ as if they are performing and want to be heard. The audience is continuously invited to watch as well as to try and decipher the haphazard plot in which characters are encased in. The good thing about performing on canvas is that anything is possible – and that is what intrigues Erheriene-Essi the most.