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Steve Sabella - Monograph

Published by Hatje Cantz in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste Berlin
Essays by Hubertus von Amelunxen
Foreword by Kamal Boullata



Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph
Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph Steve Sabella - Monograph

Were metaphor not so misleading, I would say that Sabella paints with photography. The individual photograph takes on meaning only as material and as a citation of a reality, so as to then be bound into a structural mesh of forms. The material enables the theme to resound, gives the note, so to speak, to then be varied in different correlations. The photograph’s objective impression, evident only upon closer scrutiny, is not revoked by the painterly gesture. On the contrary, the images make their impact through a gaze that cannot be correlated, cannot be attributed to something seen. The objective character is heightened by the structural agreement between the individual pictorial elements, yet at the same time it then receives an unmistakable signature. Comparing the painted and the photographed image, the hand and the machine, Gerhard Richter said: “And you cannot do it as well by hand as you can with a machine, at the same time you can do it even better than with a machine.”

It is not a question of the comparability or difference between photography and painting, but of the degree of abstraction. Richter describes abstract painting as a “relationship between color and structure, as in musical composition . . .” So let us stop always seeing photography as a view of the world, as if it only revealed itself by leading us to what is. These images contain only what was not before and what now corresponds to a becoming that is not based on its past. The structural dismantling of the photographic gaze begun in the In Exile cycle has an inherent hopelessness that takes Steve Sabella not away from photography but toward abstraction through a formal idiom of his own. His images develop into arabesques, intertwining counterpoints, structural images, fabrics interwoven with deductions from the passings of time, planes on which a shattered reality is laid.
excerpt from the essay by Hubertus von Amelunxen
There are no symmetries in Sabella’s arabesques, just as there are no symmetries in the two worlds he lives in. In his photography it is metaphor that replaces the role of symmetry in the traditional arabesque. In the cubistic nature of his vision it is between the “here” he moved to and the “there” he came from that his metaphors manifest what the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard called “the dialectics of outside and inside.” It is no wonder that it was out of photographing fenestrations, barriers, brick walls, and skies that Sabella entered into his world of abstraction.
excerpt from the foreword by Kamal Boullata / for the complete foreword click here


Review: Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Kate Steinmann
Prefix Photo
Summer 2015
Prefix Photo
The monograph surveys Sabella's astonishingly rich body of work, whose formal diversity shatters the illusion of a monolithic Palestinian experience just as its abstractions speak of the shared realities of oppression and resistance.

Several cycles of work from the past seventeen years are illustrated here, each aesthetically distinct from the others. These include Search (1997), a stark, rigorously composed early black-and-white series; Till the End (2004), fragmentary, evocative colour images of Jerusalem, fixed to the surfaces of irregularly shaped stones; Exit (2007), a clinical inventory of bony, wrinkled hands that suggests both endurance and the gradual wearing-out of the body; Settlement: Six Israelis and One Palestinian (2008-10), oversized prints presenting standardized, quasi-ethnographic portraits of denizens of the conflicted territory facing one another, mirroring the region’s demographic ration; In Exile (2008), fractalized images of glossy, hypermodern buildings that conjure up the artists’s life as an expatriate; and Independence (2013), painterly, lyrical images of figures suspended in a velvety, fluid space.

The Harrowed Hands of Palestine
By Sarah Irving
Electronic Intifada
November 2, 2015
Electronic Intifada

Interspersed with the collections of Sabella’s photographs are the sections of an extended essay by von Amelunxen. He offers often illuminating readings of Sabella’s art, and places the work into context — both biographical and in relation to Palestinian art and literature.

Citing the likes of poet Mahmoud Darwish, intellectual Edward Said and Boullata, as well as philosophers Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, von Amelunxen draws out some of the themes suggested by Sabella’s visual explorations.

Coming from a very established position in the European art hierarchy, von Amelunxen’s text is a fine example of how, while fully acknowledging the politics that affect the positioning of any Palestinian artist, Palestinian creativity still stands up to the most rigorous examinations of art criticism.


Review: Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
Journal of Palestine Studies
Journal of Palestine Studies
Von Amelunxen provides a sophisticated perspective, and yet his is a gaze of an outsider from a different culture. By comparing Western and Middle Eastern scholarship and theoretical frameworks for artistic practice, he nevertheless builds a profound framework for possible perceptions, analysis, and understandings of Sabella’s work: After the Last Sky (part 1), Disentanglement (part 2), Cut (part 3), Palimpsest (part 4), Translation (part 5), and Counterpoint (part 6) provide six different angles from which the work can and/or could be seen and analyzed. In each discourse, writings by Martin Heidegger are as much taken into consideration as those of Mahmud Darwish, René Descartes as much as al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, Edward Said as much as Achille Bonito Oliva or Vilèm Flusser.

Book of the Month: Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
This Week in Palestine
This Week In Palestine
The cover exemplifies these layers. Bright bands in many colors fold over one another and wrap around the surface of the book. Upon closer inspection, their photographic composition becomes apparent. The title of the book, set in metallic foil, is barely visible on the cover, as if entirely consumed by the work itself. Later, the artwork from which these bands of color have been extracted will be discovered in Sinopia.

Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014 Published by Hatje Cantz Verlag
Canvas Daily
This 208-page hardback cover is Steve Sabella's first monograph, which looks at the Palestinian artist's work over the last two decades. The cover is a detail of a work from 2014 entitled Sinopia. "I wanted the text on the cover to be as discreet as possible, because I wanted the work to speak for itself."

Palestinian Photographer Steve Sabella Declares Independence through Mental Images – Book Review
Lisa Pollman
Art Radar

The book is divided into sixteen visual journeys, chronicling the artist’s trademark “mental images” replicated from memories of an artist living under occupation, exile and liberation, offering up a rich pattern of abstractions. Quotations from celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish are sprinkled throughout the book, providing a palpable link between past and present.

Of particular interest is Sabella’s progress from witness to exile to freedom and, finally, independence. Essays by Professor Dr Hubertus von Amelunxen, member of Akademie der Künste and the President of the European Graduate School in Sas Fee, add insightful content and bookend the images. According to von Amelunxen, Sabella’s artwork speaks directly to modern-day concerns, such as displacement and migration.