Fresh Paint

Artists & Illustrators|July 2020

Fresh Paint
Inspiring new artworks, straight off the easel

Esiri Erheriene-Essi

There’s a wonderful nostalgia to the paintings of Esiri Erheriene-Essi. She scours everything from flea markets to museum archives for her source material, as she searches for “something very specific that captures my attention and activates my imagination”.

Her interest in harnessing the power of history stems back to her BA in Media Studies at the University of East London, reading the essays of James Baldwin. “He talked a lot about history and how reading the words of others that had come before him made him feel less alone and I guess that always stayed with me,” she says. Her focus is on imagery from the African diaspora and her aim is to “not just to document the world as it is” but rather “depict the world as I want it to be and how it should be.”

In the case of Luster’s Pink Original, Esiri bought a 1950s photo from the US via eBay. “The figures in their stylish clothes reminded me of my parents back in the late 1980s having their Nigerian friends over for dinner in our cramped flat in Deptford, loudly telling stories of ‘back home’, playing Fela Kuti or Sir Victor Uwaifo or the Lijadu Sisters, and letting me have small sips of their bottled Guinness before I was shooed to bed.”

Her paintings all begin with an acrylic ink sketch to give them that “Klimt glow”, while the source photos are added using a Xerox transfer process and Golden’s Soft Gel Matte. “You have to stick the printed image on to the canvas with the glue, wait 24 hours for it to dry, then use water and a sponge to gradually peel the paper off, leaving only the ink of the printed image encased in the glue.”

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July 2020