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20 Jun 2014

Esiri Erheriene-Essi: Don't support the greedy at Museum Arnhem

Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Pussy Riot (For Asata), 2013.

Esiri Erheriene-Essi in Museum Arnhem, the Netherlands, Europe.
Museum Arnhem


Until September 7 Opening hours:
Tuesday - Sunday 11 am -17 pm About one hour drive from Amsterdam

Linda Schregardus
+31 26 30 31 400

Museum Arnhem
Utrechtseweg 87
6812 AA Arnhem
The Netherlands / Les Pays-Bas

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Museum Arnhem presents 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.

In the early days of her artistic career Erheriene-Essi willingly saw herself as a chronicler of daily life. Her triptych Casual Observers (2006) is thus constructed as a comic strip: it is a snapshot with close-ups from the lives of her friends and captures 24 hours of banal activity in an individual's life. In the painting Confessions of a Gigolo (2009) a naked boy lays out in various snippets his thoughts on the trendy art theories of the time and inspiring artists such as Lucian Freud and Chantal Joffe.
In addition to these 'comic strip' works, the exhibition at Museum Arnhem includes paintings where Erheriene-Essi takes historical photos and films as a starting point. Photos of crime scenes by the photographer/photojournalist Weegee, among others, lay the groundwork for paintings where the bystanders as well as the murder victims are spotlighted.
Other works are based on images of lynching scenes; from various archives documenting race related atrocities in late 19th century North America as well as second WWII executions. The charged nature of these scenes is strongly accented by the combination with musical texts and frivolous musical notes.
In her recent works Kalopsia and Avwebo (Expensive Shit) from 2013 Erheriene-Essi portrays a 'happy African family', inspired by the idealized family scenes from African Challenge (a popular Nigerian magazine in the 1970s), where the effects of colonization and striving for Western ideals of family life was problematized. The artist paints her scenes against a background of images from the same period ranging from racist advertisements to news photos.

Erheriene-Essi considers her work as '[...] small vessels with information. As an artist you are a witness of your time. You must inform yourself in order to analyze events and then offer a creative commentary on them.'

Don't support the greedy is accompanied by a publication in English. Price € 15,- ISBN/EAN: 978-90-72861-52-8