Mandy El-Sayegh Figure One Mandy El-Sayegh Figure One

Mandy El-Sayegh Figure One

Until 15 January 2022
Paris Marais

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My work poses the question: who is permitted to enter the space of abstraction, and which subject positions are marginalised in the process?

— Mandy El-Sayegh

 

The title of the exhibition Figure One refers to the illustrations in forensic pathology books, which inspired the show. In these books, meaning is constructed through fragmented images accompanied by detailed descriptions. This format is helpful in understanding how narratives are broken up and the incomplete way in which subjects are often represented.

Watch Mandy El-Sayegh speak about her process

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Watch Mandy El-Sayegh speak about her process

Mandy El-Sayegh brings together diagrams of magic tricks, images taken from 1980s anatomy books, poems, news items and advertisements to form the grounds for her paintings. Through these collections of fragments she reveals the complex personal, collective and often violent histories that underpin the creation and circulation of artworks.

Piece

In her Piece paintings, El-Sayegh collages fragments of image and text before adding silkscreen prints chosen from her archive of...

In her Piece paintings, El-Sayegh collages fragments of image and text before adding silkscreen prints chosen from her archive of sources. She then covers the composition with a wash of white lotion.

At the centre of Fig. 5 is the body of a detainee being tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Shown naked and covered in sewage, with his arms outstretched, the body resembles a crucifix, prompting the artist to refer to this work as an altarpiece.


Fig.5, 2021
Oil and mixed media on silkscreened linen with collaged elements
218 x 138 cm 

 

Female, 5yrs, 2021 Silkscreened oil and acrylic on linen with collaged elements 178 x 138 cm

Female, 5yrs, 2021
Silkscreened oil and acrylic on linen with collaged elements
178 x 138 cm

Each body of work is a stage in the processing of a whole.

— Mandy El-Sayegh

 

White Ground

Works from the White Grounds series are the next stage of the process. The artist continues to layer white paint...

Works from the White Grounds series are the next stage of the process. The artist continues to layer white paint until the source material that forms the grounds of the works is barely visible.

In Spring Collection, the ground of the canvas is almost completely obscured by a white veil of lotion. On the left side, a dried fragment of paint El-Sayegh found in her studio suggests a scabbed-over wound.

Spring collection, 2021
Oil and mixed media on silkscreened linen with collaged elements
218 x 138 cm

 

SumarSummary, 2021 Oil and mixed media on silkscreened linen with collaged elements 218 x 138 cm (85.83 x 54.33 in)

SumarSummary, 2021
Oil and mixed media on silkscreened linen with collaged elements
218 x 138 cm (85.83 x 54.33 in)

The Neutral

 

 

The ideas of French philosopher Roland Barthes on neutrality are helpful for El-Sayegh, who wants to challenge the way we...

The ideas of French philosopher Roland Barthes on neutrality are helpful for El-Sayegh, who wants to challenge the way we tend to think in black and white.

 ‘....the Neutral does not refer to “impressions” of greyness, “neutrality” and indifference. The Neutral – my Neutral – can refer to intense, powerful, unprecedented experiences. “Overcoming the paradigm” is an ardent, burning activity.’

— Roland Barthes, Le Neutre: Cours au Collège de France (1977-78)

 

Net-Grid

For the Net-Grids, El-Sayegh adds a further layer: a hand-painted grid in pink flesh tones bruised with blue. She describes...

For the Net-Grids, El-Sayegh adds a further layer: a hand-painted grid in pink flesh tones bruised with blue. She describes the grid as a net, a gauze holding the fragments together.

From afar, these works look almost abstract, but they also resemble skin, leaning towards embodiment rather than transcendence. The artist’s references are concrete rather than ethereal, with the title Lucky Fiver pointing to the complex watermarking used to prevent forgery on banknotes, whose palette is similar to El-Sayegh’s.

Net-Grid (Lucky Fiver), 2021
Oil and mixed media on linen with silkscreened collaged elements
235 x 225 cm

 

There is a distinct lack of any complete figure or subject in the works, so it’s as much about what they omit as what they expose.

— Mandy El-Sayegh

 

Net-Grid (silk figure), 2021 Oil and mixed media on linen with silkscreened collaged elements 235 x 225 cm

Net-Grid (silk figure), 2021
Oil and mixed media on linen with silkscreened collaged elements
235 x 225 cm 

 

Bodily Dispersal

Fig. 1 (2021) is part of an ongoing process of collection and assemblage that spans the artist’s entire practice. In a sculptural extension to her paintings, El- Sayegh selects objects from a vast archive collected and created over time and lays them out on a stainless-steel table that resembles traditional marble anatomical slabs. In this way, she encourages a forensic inspection of the disparate elements that constitute her works.

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Among the objects on display is a small phone playing a 2019 video work called The Amateur. In it, El-Sayegh...

Among the objects on display is a small phone playing a 2019 video work called The Amateur. In it, El-Sayegh juxtaposes images of works by famous abstract painters such as Mark Rothko and Gerhard Richter, and footage taken during a residency in a Colombian morgue in 2018. The work creates a tension between the image of the disempowered body on one side, and on the other, the work of white, male, European and American abstract artists, celebrated as transcendental.

Excerpt of The Amateur, 2019. HD video, original soundtrack by Lily Oakes, 2:36 min, looped.

 

 

Figured Ground (2021) is an in situ installation made up of newspaper pages, which the artist lays the floor and then covers in transparent latex. 
She then layers them with silkscreen prints of code names for Israeli military operations, and fragments of Chinese and Arabic calligraphy.
Over this base, the artist applies a gestural wash of white paint, forming a semi-transparent ‘veil’ that holds together the fragments of image and text.

 

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‘Summer Breeze’, ‘Spring of Youth’ and ‘Autumn Clouds’ are all code-names of Israeli military operations, whose poetic-sounding titles bely their violent reality. Next to them, El-Sayegh places excerpts of poems from William Blake’s 1974 volume Songs of Innocence and of Experience. These also have seasonal titles such as ‘Spring’ and reflect the duality that is at the heart of El-Sayegh’s practice between that which is beautiful and harmonious and a darker, more ominous presence.

1. Detail of Figured Ground, 2021. Silkscreened ink, newspaper, latex and mixed media. Dimensions variable. 2. William Blake, Spring’, In Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1974. 3. Detail of Little fly (Stephen), 2021. Oil and mixed media on silkscreened linen with collaged elements. 218 x 138 cm (85.83 x 54.33 in). 

 

Look through Mandy El-Sayegh’s artist booklet. In it, she explores the themes relevant to her work in her own words,...

Look through Mandy El-Sayegh’s artist booklet.

In it, she explores the themes relevant to her work in her own words, picking out references and source material and giving us a glimpse into her process and her imagination.

Read the booklet

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