Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014


By Hubertus Von Amelunxen


Cécile Elise Sabella was the first work I ever saw by Steve Sabella. I thought of Antonin Artaud, of perforations of surfaces, of the inscription, and of what Artaud himself, and after him Jacques Derrida, calls the “subjectile.” Sabella’s book is a scene, in Derrida’s sense of the term, in which subject and object are present and interpenetrate. The subjectile in painting is what underlies the form as carrier, matter, substance, the surface, and at the same time the consistency of the plane, or to use Derrida’s words: “A kind of skin punctuated by pores.”…


The book is ambivalent in several ways, cruel and tender, disjointed and layered, linking and rupturing. It is body and place of the absent body; it is mutilation and vacuum, torture and homage. It is an intermediate space, a membrane; it forms intermediate spaces and creates places in the loss of the immediate. It is about originality and reproduction, birth and alienation, longing and despair. It literally embodies a distance, away from the place of birth, Jerusalem, away from the body.


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Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia

By Sheyma Buali
July 2014


The final room was dedicated to Sabella’s daughter Cecile, a recurrent figure in his work. In this small room, the viewer was surrounded by photographs of the bright colours of her clothes. The image suggest that this little girl has now entered Sabella’s fragmented world as he almost obsessively documents the patterns, stitching, lint and stains of her garments. In a handmade book made up of the same colourful images, Sabella left a half-erased handwritten note for all to see: ‘I gave birth to something alien to me. When Cecile was born forty-three months ago, it was only a question of time until we had difficulties communicating.’ Cecile spoke her mother’s Swiss-German while he spoke Arabic. ‘She is simply foreign to me,’ he writes. But upon moving from Jerusalem to London, Sabella recounts how he and his daughter found a language between them in a common experience of exile.



Steve Sabella Occupation and Exile… and Transformations


Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

By Antawan Joukai
March 15, 2014


PDF (Arabic)

view on the Al Arabi El Jadid website

Stages of Transition – Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella


Afterimage – The Journal of Media Arts & Culture

By Dorothea Schoene
April 2012


This comparison also holds due to the fact that Sabella does not use iconography that would link him stylistically to his native homeland or region. Trees, grass, windows, and textile patterns can all be considered a “global” formal language. Thus he creates a small space or gap between his own biography and the artwork in which viewers can place themselves in an undefined moment for self-positioning.



Euphoria and Beyond



By Charlotte Bank

May 13, 2011


Palestinian artist Steve Sabella‘s work centres on concepts of exile and dislocation. In his project “In Exile” he addressed the fragmentation of his own mind that he had felt all his life and which was brought to a further climax by a remark of his young daughter when she expressed a longing for “her city Jerusalem”.




New Vision – Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century


Thames & Hudson & TransGlobe Publishing
By Hossein Amirsadeghi & Salwa Mikdadi



More recently Sabella has explored the concept of ‘exile’ from a different perspective: his daughter. As he touchingly explains: “When Cécile was born…it was only a question of time until we had difficulties communicating. She speaks Swiss German [the language of Sabella’s wife], I speak Arabic, and neither of us understands what the other is talking about. She is simply foreign to me.” Sabella’s response was a series of photographs of the material of his daughter’s clothes, from outside and inside. “This work attempts to establish a relationship between us by photographing her clothes from both sides – inside and outside. A cloth, no matter what, will always have its other side. This mirrors the basic fact that in essence, Cécile and I will always have a connection.”



Steve Sabella – I am From Jerusalem


Exhibition Review of Euphoria & Beyond

The Empty Quarter Gallery, Dubai

By Christa Paula


Both Six Israelis and One Palestinian and Cecile Elise Sabella mandate the acknowledgment of the individual as an autonomous being worthy of recognition. The latter, a tender and apologetic declaration of love from the artist to his young daughter, portrays pairs of square-cuts from the child’s colourful clothes and is included in the exhibition. Conceived as an artist’s book, these images too deal with duality, but they also mirror the essential connection between a father and a daughter, two exiles born in Jerusalem, two of the same cloth.



Steve Sabella In Exile
Conversation with the Artist


Retrospective Review and Interview

Exhibition Catalogue, Metroquadro Gallery, Turin

By Sara Rossino

May 2010


I think that your move to London from Jerusalem was very important to your private life and also to your artistic development. Your condition of being in exile didn’t really alter with the change in where you were living because it was a mental and not a physical state. But I think it is interesting to shed some light on what happened to your daughter, Cécile, because it is meaningful to understand the further evolution of your vision of existence and to come to the artwork presented in the exhibition, Cécile Elise Sabella. 


PDF (English & Italian)

Steve Sabella – The Journey of Artistic Interrogation and Introspection Retrospective


Contemporary Practices Journal, VI
Review by Yasmin El Rashidi



It was in that moment, in the sharing of the sameness of a view of exile, that a language was developed between father and child, between one exile and another. And it was in that moment, that a realisation of relativity and perspective was formed. In Cecile Elise Sabella (2008), Sabella photographs the fabric of Cecile’s clothes from both sides, making testimony to the science of “the other side” and the duality of exile. In this work we bear witness to a father, who is an artist, who is brought to understanding in a single moment, that no matter what, there is another side; and a connection, even in silence, with Cecile.



His Message in a Nutshell: ‘Alienation is the new world syndrome.’

Reflections on Palestine – The Empty Quarter, Dubai


Time Out Dubai

By Nyree Barrett

March 25, 2010


But Cecile did not learn my mother tongue – it was agonising because I gave birth to someone so foreign to me. But when we went to London after three years she was standing at this exact window like this [above], and she said to me and my wife, “I want to go home – I want to go back to my country.” Something happened in this moment: her state of consciousness mirrored mine, and for the first time we had a common language, the language of exile. I wanted to mirror this language.’