You might see disco dancers or Disney in her paintings, but INKA ESSENHIGH would rather you didn’t. Words: Jack Mottram
ular paintings. They are spectacul- arly weird too. ller canvases are peopled with plastic-and— flesh mutants that bulge improbany and trail stringy appendages behind them. like the results of a failed exper- irnent to breed mammal and machine. These creatures are super- heroes. too. or the gods of a future mythology. always in motion. made flesh with the bold outlines and blocky Colours of cartoons. The sort of cartoons that would have been made if Walt Disney had handed over the reins of his studio to a committee of surrealists.
Bacon is in there too somewhere. in the pinks and oranges. and the horriﬁed. cynical world-view. Pop rears its head from time to time as well. in lissenhigh's depiction of disco dancers and wrestlers. and her tendency to chew up and spit out the familiar and everyday. making the banal fantastic.
l'ler paintings are so easily read in terms of inﬂuence and allusion. it seems as if the alternate universe lissenhigh maintains across her paintings is in part a dialogue between painting’s past and post-painting popular culture. Ask the New York artist how she draws together so wide a frame of reference. though. and she laughs. 'I have no idea!‘ she says. ‘There‘s nothing I‘m really trying to reference or draw from. If I'm making a painting. I'm just going by what it looks like. It's good as long as it looks good to me. If I need a big blue spot up in the left hand corner. then I put that big blue spot on there and figure out what it is afterwards.‘
For lissenhigh. it‘s all about the painting. the technical act of applying paint to a canvas. ‘I always think that you could spot one of my paintings.’ she says. 'They have a distinct style. but all people seem to do is try to list my sources. If someone comes along and says that this painting looks like Disney. my first instinct is to try and change it. What I do is about style and about beauty. and I'm searching for a style that incorporates being beautiful and traditional. that
‘My paintings have a raw energy in them and that’s what comes across as being cartoony’
Personal Planet, 2002
incorporates ideas of aesthetics from contrapasto to Bauhaus ideas of colour. shape and line. My paintings have straightforward raw energy in them and that‘s what comes across as being cartoony and not line-arty. Those abstract qualities are in there. but without pretension.‘
It is almost as if lissenhigh is so close to her own work. so involved in the work of making. that she cannot see beyond herself as painter and her work as painting. liven when pressed to consider the meaning that jtunps out at the viewer in a work such as ll'll’l’. a clear satire on the overblown fakery of professional wrestling. lissenhigh prefers to talk in terms of making marks with her brush.
‘l'm drawn to all this theatre that doesn‘t have a human scale.‘ she explains. ‘What I want out of a painting is a certain amount of grand gesture. but I then want to inject it with something smaller. something comical. something human. If there is a grand sweeping gesture. I always like to counteract it with some side relief. some smaller gesture. something tiny at the side. They are abstract marks on the canvas that might turn into people and tigures.‘
This might be what makes lissenhigh great. For all the futuristic tropes in her work. she is something of a traditionalist. Her work isn't a set of themes and ideas realised through a medium: instead. that medium is the driving force. and her show at the liruitmarket should be seen as about. for and because of painting. pure and simple.
Inka Essenhigh opens at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 5 Apr-Sat 24 May.
News from the world of an
THREE ARTIST-RUN organisations have been awarded grants of 215.000 in a new SAC award called the Work Development Fund. aimed at utilising arts within the community. Switchspace and Generator from Glasgow and Limousine Bull from Aberdeen were chosen out of a shortlisted five. Switchspace bid to use the money in developing an existing project that uses derelict ﬂats to exhibit contemporary art as well as financially assisting the artists involved.
AND Still 0N »\ \‘v’INNINC‘i thoruo ctrirripatiric u ‘rks are limliplllt} or I:; that ‘.'.li|f;l\, caps urtscrtéy-rrrrtj" .lfikilt‘ltlltltllt‘l‘, announces awards fr‘r rts 1’: KM Artists Resltluritw. protjrarrivvre the lucky toy-.1 who llltﬁllltlt’ Roderick Buchanan, .Jat‘tjuolrnt' l)<ilt£l(‘,ltlt? and Matthrou l aurctte. \.‘.'rl| spend tori weeks this summer at the (il(?llll(l(ll(fll Distillery Ill Dutttowp working on projects; among the vapours of tormenting malt That. the long sumrnor nights and the Highland arr are SélKl to he very fortrlo tor the Creative powers lltt: (ilf?ltll(l(ll(:lt residences are awarded to high (liilllﬂf? (Z()lll(}lltl)()fllf‘/ artists Irvrnq and working Ill l uropo
Cask in hand: Roderick Buchanan
NOW PREPARE TO BE dazzled. Two of Glasgow’s finest structures, previously hidden under the cloak of darkness come nightfall, are to be lit up with innovative lighting schemes designed by David Bryant. In a new project headed by nva, Glasgow College of Building and Printing and the Glasgow Tidal Weir will be illuminated to accentuate their unique designs. Modulating colours picking out the funnel and deck shapes on the College's Corbusier-style roof, and beams of light highlighting the Tidal Weir’s pier and support structures are all part of the plan. And like phosphor- escence, light will shimmer in the rushing water of the weir, conjuring magic in the night.
27 Mar—10AM 2003 THE LIST 83