Inka Essenhigh Exhibited at The Saatchi Gallery

Inka Essenhigh


oil on canvas

198. x 177 cm
Inka Essenhigh paints Subway as a commuters’ opera. Her smooth surface and seamless paint replicates the sublime precision of urban life. Essenhigh’s corporate toned environment becomes a stage on which her strange and distorted figures conjoin in symphonic movement, leaving plastic trails in their haste as they swoon through the scene. Turning everyday banality into surreal case study, Essenhigh gives humorous portrayal of people at their rush hour worst. Drawing stylistic reference from both graphic novels and golden age animation, caricatured city-types gain comically heroic status, rendering a humble slice of America as grand theatrical drama.
Inka Essenhigh
Blue Wave


2002, oil on canvas

178 x 188cm

Appropriating the theme of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave, Inka Essenhigh’s Blue Wave crests with sculptural solidity. Essenhigh deviates from the flat designs and enamel application of her early work. Using oil paint she infuses her scene with manufactured vivacity: this heroic depiction of nature is rendered with the aesthetics of computer animation. Like Hokusai’s woodcut print, Essenhigh uses the stillness of stylised formations to contemplate the drama of a raging seascape. Flaunting their artificiality, the turquoise waves seduce with a certain menace, their razor sharp peaks extending with decorative threat.

Inka Essenhigh


2005, oil on linen

178 x 193cm
"I think about [my paintings] as being about America: fake, fun, pop, violent, but also quite attractive," Inka Essenhigh explains. In Essenhigh’s most recent work, images from suburbia convolute into grotesque dreamscapes; her pastoral scenes of normality belie their true nature as instances of alien horror. In Shopping, Essenhigh readily captures the greed of a chav-land mall with cartoonist’s exaggeration: shell-suited blonds undulate with flirtatious curvature, arms cum tentacles slither for bargain goods. In distorting the scene, Essenhigh draws humorous caricature as well as a heightened sense of plasticity; the women resemble figurines in a themed setting, mannequins illustrating their own insincerity.
Inka Essenhigh


2004, oil and enamel on canvas

183 x 188cm
Inka Essenhigh translates the subtle qualities of drawing into luxurious paintings. Resonating with exquisite draughtsmanship, Supergod is reminiscent of the design purity of the art deco era. Painting in oil and enamel, Essenhigh uses the cool gloss effect of her media to create a sense of hyper-artificiality: her flat surface possesses a richness of synthetic colour, deceptive in illusion of depth and luminosity. Influenced by 19th century caricatures, oriental art, and contemporary comics, Essenhigh’s paintings are both exotic and operatic: envisioning futuristic mythologies frozen in sublime moments of suspended animation.
Inka Essenhigh


2002, oil on canvas

183 x 203cm
Inka Essenhigh’s paintings redefine pop as the epitome of aesthetic hierarchy. Her ultra-slick surfaces operate as virtual fields, where estranged narratives play out in cross-wired systems of reference and recognition. In WWF, Essenhigh draws from romanticised emblems of decadence: the classicism of Greek frescos or the empyreal motifs of Asian lacquer-ware are resembled with futuristic technophilia, made more dynamic in the fantasy realm of cartoon. The god-like figures contort in a stylised motif of aestheticised violence and sexuality. Essenhigh’s highly structured formalism eschews emotional intimacy; line, space, and colour are used to create stunning tension, a baroque beauty that is majestically antiseptic.
Inka Essenhigh
Pup Tent


2004, oil on canvas

183 x 152cm

In Pup Tent, Inka Essenhigh shifts to a more realistic style with poetic sensitivity, translating her graphic designs into a softly rendered 3D world. Her mythological scene unfolds with the compositional order of her earlier enamel paintings: compacted configurations, affiliated by trailing ephemera, engulfed by a swooping mass of flowing motion. In this new painterly language, Essenhigh gives real tangibility to form: her figure comes to life with porcelain-like delicacy, and the fabric flows with defined texture rather than calligraphied patterns. Trading her factitious palette for gothic monochrome, Essenhigh capitalises on the richness and depth of the medium to create a painting that is elegant and haunting.

Inka Essenhigh


2001, oil on canvas

267 x 220cm
Pegasus is a celebration of sinuous, elegant, energetic drawing. Focusing on mythical horses, Essenhigh delights in the curving, twisting lines of their flowing manes and muscular bodies. Like many of the figures in her recent paintings, they seem on the point of bursting out of the image, momentarily stilled in a quivering evocation of throbbing energy and life.
Inka Essenhigh
Lost Treasure


Oil on canvas

147 x 127cm
Inka Essenhigh
The Adoration


Oil and enamel on canvas

183 x 193cm

Inka Essenhigh's Biography

Inka Essenhigh
Born in 1969, Belfonte, Pennsylvania
Lives and works in New York


Tomio Koyama Gallery, Kyoto, Japan

Pace Prints, New York

303 Gallery, New York

Victoria Miro Gallery, London

303 Gallery, New York

Victoria Miro Gallery, London
DA2 Domus Artium, Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Spain

Sint-Lukas Galerie, Brussels, Belgium
Etchings, Michael Steinberg Fine Art, New York

Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami
The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Galleria Il Capricorno, Venice, Italy

303 Gallery, New York
Victoria Miro Gallery. London

Works on paper, Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Victoria Miro Gallery, London
Mary Boone Gallery, New York

New Paintings, Deitch Projects, New York
American Landscapes: Recent Paintings by Inka Essenhigh, New Room of
Contemporary Art, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Recent Paintings, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York

Wallpaper Paintings, La Mama La Galleria, New York


Fairy Tales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination”, First Center for the Visual
Arts, Nashville, TN

Inside the Painterʼs Studio, Stephen D. Paine Gallery, Massachusetts College
of Art & Design, Boston
Creating the New Century: Contemporary Art from the Dicke Collection, Dayton
Art Institute, Dayton, OH
Counterpoint, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME

Between Picture and Viewer, Visual Arts Gallery, New York

Comic Abstraction, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Imagination Becomes Reality, ZKM / Museum Für Neue kunst, Karlsruhe,Germany
The Play of Multiple Meaning, Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
COMIX, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark
Counterparts: Contemporary Painters and Their Influences, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia

Art on Paper 2006, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC
Painting Codes, GCAC, Monfalcone, Italy
Motion on Paper, Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
The Compulsive Line: Etching 1900 to Now, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Imagination Becomes Reality, Part III. Talking Pictures Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany
USA Today, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens, London

Life and Limb, curated by David Humphrey, Feigen Contemporary, New York
Neobaroque, Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Spain

Perspectives at 25, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX
SITE Santa Fe Biennial, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Bienal de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Supernova: Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection, San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art, CA
Reverie: Works from the Collection of Douglas S. Cramer, The Speed Art
Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Drawing, G Gallery, Washington, DC
Heaven & Hell, Barbara Mathes Galley, New York
Painting Pictures: Painting and Media in the Digital Age”, Kunstmuseum
Wolfsberg, Germany

Pertaining to Painting, curated by Paola Morsiani, Contemporary Arts
Museum, Houston, TX
la part de lʼautre, Carré dʼArt, Musée dʼart contemporain, Place de la Maison
Carrée, Nimes, France
Art in the ʻtoon age, Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, MI
Jay Davis, Inka Essenhigh, Christian Schuman”, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, TX

Go Figure, curated by Michael Steinberg and Stefan Stoyanov, Luxe Gallery, New York
Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA (traveling to The Center for Contemporary Art, New
Orleans, LA; University of North Texas, Denton, TX; Western Washington
University, Bellingham, WA)
Casino 2001, 1st Quadrennial of Contemporary Art, SMAK (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuelle Kunst), Ghent
Works on Paper: from Acconci to Zittel , Victoria Miro Gallery, London
2nd Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany
My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation, Des Moines Art Center, IO (will also be exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH; and Tampa Museum of Art, FL)
Hybrids, Tate Gallery, Liverpool, England
Works on paper, Victoria Miro Gallery, London

To Infinity and Beyond, Brooke Alexander, New York
Emotional Rescue, Center for Contemporary Art, Seattle, Washington
Deitch/Steinberg: New Editions, Deitch Projects, New York
The Figure: Another State of Modernism, Newhouse Center for Contemporary
Art at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, New York
Greater New York: New Art in New York Now, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York.

Pleasure Dome, Jessica Fredericks Gallery, New York
A room with a view, Sixth @ Prince Fine Art, New York

Blade Runner, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York
The New Surrealism, Pamela Auchincloss Project Space, New York
Pop Surrealism, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Summer Review, 98, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York
Celebrating Diversity: Contemporary Women Painters, Hillwood Art Museum,
Long Island University, Brookville, New York
Wild, Exit Art/The First World, New York

Sex/Industry, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York
The Art Exchange Fair, with Stefan Stux Gallery, New York
Girls! Girls! Girls! Tricia Collins Grand Salon, New York

Underexposed: Nine Young American Painters, Andrè Zarre Gallery, New York
Anatomy/Intellect , Stefanelli Exhibition Space, New York
Set Off: Inaugural Group Show, View Room Exhibitions, New York
Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists' Space, New York
Featured Web Page Artist for December, Artists' Space, New York

Inka Essenhigh, Stephen Mumford and Leemour Pelli: Paintings, School of
Visual Arts, First Floor Gallery, New York

Young Ukrainian American Painters Group Show, Ukrainian Museum, New York
Work-Play; Picture Thinking and the Analogical Imagination, Visual Arts Gallery, New York
Group Show, School of Visual Arts, Wooster Street Gallery, New York