Watch now: Isaac Julien and Esiri Erheriene-Essi in conversation
Below you can find the video of yesterday’s RM Sunday Session, In Conversation with…Isaac Julien & Esiri Erheriene-Essi. The two artists spoke about art, identity and the media. Esiri Erheriene-Essi is currently showing her solo exhibition ‘I am here because you were there’ at the gallery and Isaac Julien is a renowned installation artist, filmmaker and distinguished professor of the arts at UC Santa Cruz. The panel talk was moderated by curator Rita Ouédraogo. She is curator at Framer Framed and co-curator of the Hartwig Art Collection Fund 2020-21.
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.
ABOUT Isaac Julien
Born in 1960, London, UK
Lives and works in London, UK and Santa Cruz, CA
Isaac Julien, CBE RA is a critically acclaimed British artist and filmmaker. In 2018, Julien joined the faculty at the University of California Santa Cruz where he is a distinguished professor of the arts and leads the Isaac Julien Lab together with Arts Professor Mark Nash. Current and recent international solo exhibitions include: Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, CentroCentro (Panorama Madrid), Madrid, Spain, on view until 29 August 2021; Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour, McAvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2020–2021); Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, MAXXI, Rome (2020–2021); Isaac Julien: Western Union: Small Boats, Neuberger Museum, New York (2020); Isaac Julien: Frederick Douglass: Lessons of the Hour, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2019); Looking for Langston at Tate Britain (2019); and Playtime at LACMA (2019). Julien has previously exhibited at venues including Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Art Institute of Chicago (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2012), and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2005). Julien is the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017.