Steve Sabella's Monograph
Hubertus von Amelunxen
Sabella’s series In Exile (2008), Euphoria (2010), Beyond Euphoria (2011), and Metamorphosis (2012) share a compositional principle that splinters things in the world into phases, strata, layers, and plies of possible constructions. They are subject to a geometrization that, although intuitive, is also clear and firm, a geometrization of the planes initially isolated into fragments and lots.
Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) | Kuwait | LAYERS exhibition catalogue
Malu Halasa | Beyond Palestine
In Metamorphosis (2012), Sabella explores the Palestinian landscape through the repetition of images he photographed in London and Berlin. In 160 x 160 cm light-jet prints, a single motif – a window with a lone cactus, security grills, barbed wire or what looks like a once demolished and now bricked-up wall – is repeated in an explosion of an organized yet chaotic reoccurrence. From these images one gets the distinct impression that the unseen participants in these cruel, 3-D Escher-like assemblies are either constrained by what is taking place all around them, or have become inured to its relentless constancy.
Steve Sabella is a photographer whose portfolio depicts the challenges and struggles of the human condition in familiar yet abstract forms. As a Palestinian visual artist who has lived both under occupation and in exile, Sabella’s work brings into focus a sharp and sometimes uncomfortable view of contemporary life in the 21st century in a way that begs reflection by the viewer.
Sabella’s monograph stands as one of the very few records for those interested in learning more about contemporary art and artists from the Middle East to peruse and study.
Steve Sabella’s series of photographic collages Metamorphosis (2012). The work featured in the exhibition shows segments of the Separation Wall multiplied in a dizzying motif. There is no top or bottom here, no sky or ground, the wall is reduced to pure pattern that confuses our way of looking. The artist describes the project as a “conflict between form and function, between visualisation and perception,” in which, if he manages to transform part of the wall into pure form, then he will somehow have defeated what it represents.
…Barbed wire, a symbol of physical coercion, here seems to heal the wounds it causes. Similarly, the wall around the occupied Palestinian territories becomes as permeable as its shimmering reflection in the water. Going beyond the boundaries of the photographic image, both to the ancient art of mosaic and to the new world of multimedia, Sabella thus finds a place of his own in today’s acentric world.
Metamorphosis (2012), for instance, is another disembodied world of fractured imagery, only this time we see walls rather than windows, and bricks so densely packed that the thick cement between them creates an obstructive barrier. This motif is repeated, producing an image of claustrophobic occlusion. In others, barbed wire sticks through the surface of the walls, knotted and stitched through the images, resembling a hastily repaired wound.
Steve Sabella’s Ecdysis: The Catharsis of Metamorphosis
Dorothea Schoene | Contemporary Practices Journal
“In my photo collages the consciousness of form is what enables the collage at a certain point to achieve its visual unity, trigger different reactions, and go beyond the first indexical association of the photographed image. So when I photograph a barbed wire, the immediate connotation would be the restriction of movement, but it could also refer to pain, physical pain if one gets stuck in it. An unexpected connotation would be to use it as a stitching thread, to stitch wounds. Notice how the wire appears to go in the space and out it. That idea is in conflict with its form and function – this is exactly the opposition I want to focus on in Metamorphosis. It is the conflict between form and function, between visualisation and perception.”