From 18 April until 7 September 2014 Museum Arnhem will present Don’t support the greedy, the first major, museum solo exhibition of Esiri Erheriene-Essi. “I like those scenes in which everything comes together, where various sources and diverse disciplines—art, politics and pop songs—converge to form a new entity,” remarks the artist. 

The title Don’t support the greedy is taken from one of the many texts that Esiri Erheriene-Essi (London, 1982) has chosen to accompany her paintings. The text is inscribed on a placard held by the three singers, the Supremes, who often appear as a theme in Erheriene-Essi’s paintings. For the artist this trio symbolizes the 1960s, the era of race riots, the black panther party and Martin Luther King, Jr.; meanwhile these black soul singers hid their Afro hairstyles under wigs during performances, smoothing over the seedier realities of oppression behind the scenes. The text appears on the painting Pussy Riot (For Assata) (2013) that not for nothing refers to the contemporary Russian female protest punk group who— unlike the Supremes—do not disguise their social and political criticisms.

Erheriene-Essi employs in her paintings and drawings a plain style, sometimes mixed with flat, taut lines. Through the expressive use of colors—a great deal of yellow and red—and raw, sketch-like streaks, she paints subjects inspired by an immense archive of images from newspapers, magazines, and films, on the one-hand, and by music and literature, on the other. Contemporary events sometimes form the connection to seize back events from the past. It is striking how different events through images and text are combined with each other, allowing connections to be made that are also relevant to our understanding of the present. She sees painting as the medium par excellence by which the complexity of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries can be captured. A painting for her is the equivalent of conducting a conversation in which all kinds of viewpoints come into play and can be addressed.

During 2007 – 2009, Esiri Erheriene-Essi participated in a two-year post-master residency program at De Ateliers in Amsterdam where she has lived ever since that date. She won the Dutch Royal Prize for Painting in 2009. In the meantime and ever since she has continued to push her work to new heights.

Her exhibition at Museum Arnhem is her first solo-show at a major museum and will feature a selection of her work from 2006 through 2014.


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