Juxtapoz Magazine | I Am Here Because You Were There: A Studio Visit With Esiri Erheriene-Essi
The lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing informed so many new bodies of work that were created in the past year. For some, the pandemic triggered the exploration of the feelings or imagery related to aloneness and melancholy, while others resorted to celebrating the moments of closeness in order to push through this tough period. It turns out that our friend, Esiri Erheriene-Essi, was one of those people that looked into the past in order to be able to deal with the present and await, a hopefully brighter future. And those works will be presented at her fifth solo show with Ron Mandos Gallery in Amsterdam, I Am Here Because You Were There, which will be on view starting March 6, 2021.
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.