She picks up on the racial bias that is inherently built into the technology of colour photography which was engineered for white skin. In the paintings Erheriene-Essi explores the richness that she finds in the quiet histories within the source material and uses a vast range of colour as a way to make up for what was denied.
I am interested in making works that give prominence to images of real black individuals, by exploring the untold, often unknown and forgotten or even neglected narratives of members of the African diaspora.
What does your work aim to say?
I am interested in making works that give prominence to images of real black individuals by exploring the untold, often unknown and forgotten or even neglected narratives of members of the African diaspora. I’m interested in producing images centred on blackness occupying multiple spaces in myriad ways, mundane as (well as) political. Providing room for both contemplation and difference – where the anger, fear, and ambivalence of the past, present and future is not denied but also not allowed to stand alone as the sole representation of blackness, but rather, as it does in our lives, coexist with joy, hope and the ordinary.
Who are your biggest influences?
Lucian Freud and Jean-Michel Basquiat are the painters that got me excited about the medium and encouraged me to pick up a paintbrush. I am a fan of the School of London painters such as Francis Bacon, Walter Sickert, Leon Kossof and Frank Auerbach. I love German expressionist artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and impressionists such as Matisse and Edvard Munch. I adore Gustav Klimt. In terms of contemporary influences, Kerry James Marshall, Henry Taylor, Marlene Dumas, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are the ones that spring to mind.
Who or what is your personal inspiration?
My family. Their support and belief in me mean the world to me and they push me to do better. Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp in 2013/2014 changed me to the very core. It was the first time in my life that I entered a museum and all the paintings on the wall were of black people. For the first time I didn’t feel like an outsider, I felt like I belonged in the art world and I made a commitment to carry that feeling on in my own work.
Which project are you currently working on?
I’ve had a busy year so I’m taking a mini-break and then will start working on new paintings for my next solo show in Amsterdam and a few other international shows later on in the year that have been pushed back due to the coronavirus. Right now, I’m waiting for a shipment of over 300 hundred vintage Kodacolor photographs from the 1960s which I am hoping to base a new series around.
Where people can buy your art?
People can contact my gallery in Amsterdam – Galerie Ron Mandos. You can reach the gallery director Nick Majoor at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
World peace. A vaccine for the coronavirus. Football to return (I miss Arsenal). A house in the countryside where I can have a studio at home and be able to paint when my almost 2-year old is napping.
What do you wish for the future?
World peace. A vaccine for the coronavirus. Football to return (I miss Arsenal). A house in the countryside where I can have a studio at home and be able to paint when my almost 2-year old is napping. An art residency in Vienna that gives me the time to explore all the Gustav Klimt paintings I want at the museums. A bigger studio. And finally, my biggest wish is for a dream joint exhibition with my favourite painters; Wangari Mathenge, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Henry Taylor and Kerry James Marshall.
Esiri Erheriene-Essi – www.esirierheriene-essi.com