A group of voices accompanies me in the exhibition. They are singing words I cannot comprehend, yet the warm tunes are familiar: folk songs, love songs, songs of longing. There are letters, too. They speak of the quotidian details of a soldier's life: the hardness of the war, sending money to the family, and longing for familiar landscapes, food,...
There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...
Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...
Exhibition view: Mandy El-Sayegh, Dispersal, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong (11 July–23 August 2019). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: Owen Wong.
Somewhere between dizzying grids, newspaper clippings and a xeroxed copy of a page from a Chinese colouring book is Mandy El-Sayegh's subjectivity. Or was: as the artist says, her subjectivity is a process.
'I view myself as someone who is always changing. It [one's subjectivity] depends on different moments in time. If you accept that as you are mutable, you'll be more accepting of change,' says El-Sayegh, who is in Hong Kong to open Dispersal, her first solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin.
Born in Selangor in Malaysia in 1985, Mandy El-Sayegh moved to the United Kingdom with her family at the age of five. In 2007 she received her BFA from the University of Westminster in London, followed by a Royal College of Art MFA that was centred on painting, but the artist has since expanded her contemporary art practice to writing, installation, and drawing.
El-Sayegh is concerned with the part-to-whole relations in philosophy and science, and how fragments of information can be re-formed to generate new meaning. Her practice is inherently fluid, involving processes of layering, erasure, and obfuscation. These processes are at play in the artist's ongoing 'Net-Grid' series, started in 2010, in which fragments of writing and images can be seen through layers of paint that have been applied using the wet-on-wet technique so that each layer absorbs into the next. On top, a hand-painted grid further obscures the layers while 'holding in' the information beneath—a literal reference to a net, and the act of catching something.
El-Sayegh's 'Net-Grid' paintings appear as cohesive compositions from afar; however, close up, elements appear sectioned off from each other by the grid. This micro-to-macro dynamic is at play across the artist's practice. Exhibitions of her artwork often include vitrines of what she calls her 'archive'—objects and images that mirror the composites of her paintings. In the artist's first institutional solo exhibition in the United Kingdom at Chisenhale Gallery, titled Cite Your Sources (12 April–9 June 2019), objects and images in vitrines included bars of Imperial Leather soap and iPhone cases, their display addressing the process of categorisation. Also on view in the exhibition were pages from the Financial Times, applied directly to the walls and floor of the gallery and overlaid with inscriptions in English and Arabic, along with maps and schematics. The pinkish hue of the paper recalled the tone of human flesh and the body's implicit entanglement in global economic, political, and social structures.
In an Ocula Conversation with Para Site deputy director Claire Shea, transcribed from a talk held in advance of the artist's solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong (Dispersal, 11 July–23 August 2019), El-Sayegh explains her approach to the show as an interest in 'this idea of an explosion, and a way to kind of start again from that.' This 'reformation of parts', as she calls it, is also at play in her ongoing 'Piece Paintings' (2010–ongoing), which are composed of disparate imagery—the body being a recurring feature—and text, including logos, which, the artist explains, 'have a magical quality that can be likened to witchcraft'.
El-Sayegh was shortlisted for the 7th edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2017. That same year, the artist's installation Boundary Work was exhibited at Sharjah Biennial 13, having been commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation. The artist's works have been included in a number of group exhibitions, including Ecologies of Darkness at S A V V Y Contemporary in Berlin (2019).
Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce Dispersal, an exhibition of work by London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh. For the artist's first solo exhibition in Asia, El-Sayegh will present new paintings, sculpture, and installation. Together, the works offer insight into El-Sayegh's complex assessment of the systems—from global finance and media, to more organic and aesthetic frameworks—by which we make meaning, assign worth, and construct personal identity and culture. There will be a reception for the artist on Thursday, July 11, from 6 to 8 PM at the Pedder Building.
As part of a generation coming of age at the turn of the 21st century, El-Sayegh's artistic sensibility is informed by the fractured and diffuse nature of acquiring knowledge and personal perspective amidst our globalised, information-saturated era. Her 'Net-Grid' studies included in the exhibition visually recreate the process by which one's psyche seeks, traps, retains, and associates information, like a fishing net cast amidst a polluted yet still fertile ocean, where both its intended catch and unsought detritus will collect. The process by which our sensory receptors retain and translate environments, experiences, education, news, and entertainment into the internalised personal network of thought, memory, and dreams is made evident in the hazy, yet formally rigorous grid of these paintings. The paint used in El-Sayegh's 'Net-Grid' studies, applied in a wet-on-wet style, speaks to the mutability, layering, and absorptive nature of knowledge itself.
The artist's sequence of latex pieces, tiled on the floor like fleshy rectangles, recreate the grid of the paintings they are shown alongside, also revealing even more tiny bits of media that have been trapped in their casting. The latex installation captures El-Sayegh's aptitude for communicating duality. Each individual unit represents a unique conceptual and material decision by the artist, however they also appear as uniform components of a larger structure, all cast from the same mould. This dichotomy is heightened by the nature of the material itself, which both preserves the properties captured in its liquid state, while simultaneously deteriorating as it ages.
The attention paid to the conceptual or metaphorical properties of her materials is again evident in the 'Piece Paintings' that incorporate figurative imagery in surrealistic juxtapositions. These are positioned in El-Sayegh's room sized installation that is created from a grid of the South China Morning Post applied directly to the gallery's walls. For the artist, the use of a local newspaper, published in English, further illuminates the frameworks of nationality, culture, society, and commerce that permeate our understanding of the world and our place within it. Standing amidst this her installation of news and layered imagery, El-Sayegh provides a perfect encapsulation of the globalised network experience that we engage with everyday, each of us a figure amidst an expansive and intractable background of information, environment, and history.
Mandy El-Sayegh (born in 1985, Malaysia; lives in London) received her BFA in 2007 from the University of Westminster, London, followed by her MFA in painting in 2011 from the Royal College of Art, London. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organised at Chisenhale Gallery, London (2019); Carl Kostyál, London (2017); The Mistake Room, Guadalajara, Mexico, (2018); and Carlos/Ishikawa, London (2016), among others. Group exhibitions and biennales featuring her work include Ecologies of Darkness, SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2019); and the Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj, Sharjah, UAE (2017).
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
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