Review: Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014


By Kate Steinmann

Prefix Photo

Summer 2015


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.

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The Harrowed Hands of Palestine

By Sarah Irving
Electronic Intifada
November 2, 2015

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.

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Review: Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014

By Dorothea Schoene
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
April, 2015

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.

Read on This Week In Palestine

Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014 Published by Hatje Cantz Verlag


November 5, 2014

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.”


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Palestinian Photographer Steve Sabella Declares Independence through Mental Images – Book Review


Art Radar
By Lisa Pollman
December 9, 2014

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.


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In Exile / Jerusalem – An Interview with Steve Sabella


Israel & Palästina – Palästinensische Kunst

Deutsch-Israelischen Arbeitskreis für Frieden im Nahen Osten e.V.

By Rainer Zimmer-Winkel



PDF (German)

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