Indepth Arts News: |
"Inka Essenhigh: Large Scale Paintings and Intricate Drawings"
2003-04-05 until 2003-05-24
UK United Kingdom
The large scale paintings and intricate drawings of American artist Inka
Essenhigh, lauded by American critics for trailblazing the current painting
revival, are the subject of a major exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery
from 5 April. New York-based Essenhigh paints enigmatic worlds in which cartoon action
figures are cast alongside the demi-monde in roles of time honoured human
concerns reflecting patriotism, religion, competitiveness and heroism within
futuristic yet neutral landscapes.
The work unites and scatters influences in equal measure, such as Italian
Renaissance iconography, Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Persian miniatures and
The exhibition comprises nine large-scale paintings that demonstrate the
artist‚s evolution in the past two years across the change from enamel-based
paints to more recent oils, and the UK premiere of 13 drawings, illustrating
the Bosch-like controlled impetus to Essenhigh's larger other-worldly
Both mediums reveal a fantastic range of influences from Dali to Disney with
flourishes of the traditional Western comic strip and cell animation to
Japanese 'manga' animation, affording an ambiguity of the playful and
Essenhigh, 33, studied at the School of Visual Arts, New York, but
attributes an early stint designing boxer short fabric for US department
store Sears as a cornerstone to her works‚ style., describing the
restrictive four-colour repeat pattern process as a confidence builder "to
choose how my work should look".
The exhibition works are altogether vivid, humorous, dynamic, surreal,
apocalyptic and prophetic.
Essenhigh describes her paintings as 'mimicking the future‚ where the
central event is Ś a physical representation of my own energy or a story.
"The ratio of grand sweeping things to little balled-up things is based on
how I feel that day or month. Sometimes it's comic: a large movement having
a small effect. Picture Bugs Bunny sneaking up on something: ominous,
operatic music alternating with low, murmuring tip toe musicThis is the
sort of language I play with: formal, like Bauhaus or Baroque design
Essenhigh's figures are scarcely individualised, hybrids existing somewhere
between their bodies and their surroundings and underscoring
interchangeability: the cast of her paintings appear always on the verge of
becoming something else, splayed-out viscera within a ballet of ordinary
life situations - pursuing the promise of beauty and pleasure from going
shopping, to the gym or getting a tan.
"I paint people doing things. People in my paintings are defined by what
they do. Shoppers shop. Dancers dance. Birds fly. Victims scream. The way
they scream of fly or dance is shown by abstracting their bodies into
gestures commonly used in cartooning . I don't paint about right and wrong;
the inhabitants of my paintings just do what they do." Inka Essenhigh August
2002 (excerpt article by David Hunt, Flash Art, October 2000)
Essenhigh has shown in Hybrids, International Contemporary Painting at The
Tate Gallery, Liverpool, in the 2nd Berlin Biennale, 2001, the first Ghent
Quadrennial - Casino 2001 at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuelle Kunst and
Greater New York at P.S.1, New York. Her work is included in the collections
of the Tate Gallery, The Seattle Art Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American
Art, The Albright Knox Gallery and The Museum of Modern Art New York.