ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Galerie Ron Mandos proudly presents I Don’t Like Nostalgia Unless It’s Mine, an exhibition of paintings by Esiri Erheriene-Essi. The British-Nigerian artist recently graduated from the prestigious post graduate residency De Ateliers in Amsterdam. In 2006 she finished a master in Fine Arts at the University of East London, after completing her bachelor in Media Studies at the same university. Her work was exhibited in several galleries in London and Amsterdam.

“The John Baldessari’s quote: ‘Historical mispronounced sounds like hysterical’ can best describe the theme and concern of my paintings. With this as a basis, I am constantly attempting to disrupt the confidence and assumptions of a reader who is familiar with history, thus, confusing their sense of logical sequence. I do this by challenging, displacing, appropriating and, in some cases, playing with the order of both collective and intimate strands of history, memory, myths, and culture of the past and present. In my alternate universe, I pit the musical 1960s group ‘Diana Ross and the Supremes’ against a repeated backdrop of Baader Meinhof/RAF member Brigitte Mohnhaupt, even though there is no evidence to suggest a connection. I paint figures who were lynched in late 19th and early 20th century America and Europe, but on my canvases, they are liberated through the simple act of eradicating the instrument of the noose and the faces of their tormentors. I remove Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro out of film sequences and place him in an edited solitary setting on canvas. I continuously hinder former president John F Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy moments before the shots in 1963 – so in my narrative time is frozen and the assassination never actually takes place.

This logic is based on reading encyclopedias and referential yearbooks and seeing the historical narrative transcribed and sequenced in chronological order. Meaning, situations, events and images of the past that have no other relation than the fact that they are historical references of the same time, are being connected and placed side by side. So in my painting universe RAF members were inspired by the music of the Supremes, and the Supremes number-one hit song ‘You keep me hangin’ on’ was triggered by atrocities committed by the RAF. I don’t know for sure, but these ‘almost connections’ and new possibilities of readings of the past is what I’m concerned with and what intrigues me the most.

Above all I am fascinated by a continued investigation of mass media, pop cultural iconography, appropriation, and mythology, as well as repetition of imagery. I am obsessed by the gaps, the silences, the disturbances and the assault in the historical narrative. As I am curious about the infinite possibilities of new readings. Thus, history is imperative to my practice but I am taking these references and facts and rewriting things just a bit.” – Esiri Erheriene-Essi

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.

esirierheriene-essi.com

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