Esiri Erheriene-Essi

History paintings of unheard stories.

Esiri Erheriene-Essi was born in London, England, in 1982, and now lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Accolades

In 2016 Dutch painter Ronald Ophuis nominated Erheriene-Essi for the Prix de Rome award hosted at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. When selected, she had to adjust her usual working processes to make an entire new body of work in 5 months – all while parenting a newborn.

Practice

In 2007 Erheriene-Essi moved from London to Amsterdam, which had a significant impact on her practice. It was at this point that she started using photographs as references to create the works, seeing her paintings expand to include full body figures.

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Collaborations with Esiri Erheriene-Essi

Avant Arte and Esiri Erheriene-Essi have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

Esiri Erheriene-Essi is a figurative painter who depicts quiet histories of Black life. She paints from a wide collection of photographs, predominantly from the 1960s and 70s – sourced online, at flea markets and occasionally from her family archives. Erheriene-Essi begins by sketching on her computer, editing the source image and creating a sort of digital collage which is later sketched up on the canvas in ink. Before painting, she adds more images from her archive through a process of xerox transfer. Thick brushstrokes are then applied in oil in her impressionistic style. Comic-books and modernist painters from The London School such as Lucian Freud were a formative influence for the artist, while Classical painting and theorists such as Stuart Hall and Tina Campt continue to inform her work.

Erheriene-Essi sees history everywhere, an idea informed by writer and activist James Baldwin who famously stated – “We carry our history with us. We are history.” Likewise, many of Erheriene-Essi’s paintings show domestic realities of the civil rights movement. “There are all of these great, famous photos of protests, but what happens when they leave the protest? When they go home and live their lives?” These oft-forgotten vignettes of daily life – talking, playing, shopping – hold the essence of collective power and social change that Erheriene-Essi channels into her painting. In her own words, “It's the greatness of these people who are just living their lives.”

“I'm just really interested in a lot of these silent, quiet histories.” Esiri Erheriene-Essi