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Published by Hatje Cantz in collaboration with the Akademie der Künste Berlin

Essays by Hubertus von Amelunxen
Foreword by Kamal Boullata

Design by Onlab

“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

read Hubertus Von Amelunxen’s biography

“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

read Kamal Boullata’s biography