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Artist Feature ://
Gaby Sahhar
Posted January 2018

Gaby Sahhar is a Palestinian-French artist based in London and a recent Fine Art graduate from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Sahhar’s practice mixes painting, performance and video and explores the role of the privileged ‘male’ in systems of Capitalism in London from a queer perspective. Much of Sahhar’s work is autobiographical, often exploring identity in relation to gender. He considers his practice the voice of someone who struggles to relate to anything masculine. With a focus on men in particular, Sahhar tries to understand how the changes that occur in London like gentrification are caused by the actions of these men, and how their shared characteristics and shared, gendered identity, informs and shapes such processes - to the detriment of others.

Sahhar uses his practice as a form of protest against gentrification, something that directly affects his way of life and their home environment of South London. With his work, Sahhar refuses to sit powerless and watch his environment be shaped and changed by the privileged few. Finding links between the struggle over public and private space in London with the state of occupation in Palestine, in recent work Sahhar connects their concerns to their Palestinian heritage, making work that examines contemporary Palestinian culture.

Sahhar Is also the Founder of Queerdirect, an LGBTQI+ project space

Q. What worries or anxieties (if any) did you have before making the jump from art school to professional artist?

I’d say my biggest worries were finding work and being financially stable in order to support my practice. In some ways I still carry these worries as I only graduated 3 years ago. Another worry, was finding the right opportunity to show work in. There are so many opportunities out there but you need to be selective when applying as many of them can actually be damaging to an artistic career.

Q. I know you are part of Tate's 15-25 year programme (Tate Collective) and had an instrumental role during the Circuit programme, could you say how important being a part of these initiatives have been for you, in terms of professional development and networking?

Being part of Tate Collective (TC) was really great for my confidence to be honest, and for my networking skills. I didn't really know anyone in the arts or really understood how art galleries worked before joining TC. When I was younger I joined loads of gallery youth groups because I saw this as a way into the creative sector. TC was the main one that I always committed to and it is one of the largest  and prestigious opportunities in London, for a creative in the 15-25 year old age bracket. When I joined TC at the age of 18/19 it felt very much like a youth club but as I matured I have learned how to curate events and think more critically about socially engaging community led art practices. I feel like this gave me an alternative perspective on how art can exist because during the time I was studying there were not many examples of peer lead projects.   

Q. As an artist working across various mediums and addressing a number of different political, socio-economic issues and debates surrounding gender identity, do you feel a certain media best represents a particular area of interest to you? Or does your practice hold an all encompassing approach?

I like to keep my practice really open, however, naturally there has always been a focus on painting, performance based film and community based events. I think in order to reference these weighted subject matters you have to have an open mind as to how you’re going to execute the ideas. I’m someone who is very much influenced by a lot of imagery I see around me. Through being sensitive to this imagery and text, I always remind myself of the context I experience it in. I often think about how I interpret this information and in the past it has become the foundation for some of my most successful projects.   

Q. As a Queer French-Palestinian artist working and living in the UK how have you used your practice to help discover, locate and communicate your identity?

I guess my practice has been the foundation of me investigating all of the above. It has allowed for my voice to be heard using my methods of communication and aesthetics in contrary to the standard political forms of communications today. I can often feel excluded from the world and not see myself reflected in mainstream society which is a good and bad thing. To use my body as a tool to communicate ideas of a society going through a collective struggle, using my practice as a platform to analyse, re-imagine and re-communicate the very foundation that forms our society, is a empowering thing for me as an individual.

‘Secrets of Palestine’ trailer

Q. Is there an artwork or artists which has had a significant impact on you?

I’d say i'm generally more influenced by my peers, especially artists working around similar subject matters who are lesser known. In mainstream art I really connect with the impressionists, I liked their ability to communicate evocative ideas of the everyday in such a simple way through brush strokes. I really admire artists who try to push a medium forward like Elizabeth Price.

Q. What position in your career would you like to be in in 10 years time, and how do you intend to get there?

I would like to be more financially successful as an artist to the point where I can give back and fund small grassroots charities or projects. For example I have a keen example of support projects centred around queer organisations in South London or Palestinian charities in the West Bank. I would also like the project space I run, titled, ‘queerdirect’, to have more of a foundation to support LGBTQI+ artists in contemporary arts. Ultimately, I feel it is important to help maintain processes that have helped me through my creative career.

︎ www.gabysahhar.com

︎ @gabysahhar

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