Cover image of the review
Khaled Sabsabi, Mush, 2012. 5 channel HD video sculpture installation, audio, wood, wire, aluminium, and paint. 03:30 mins. Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2022. Credit: Document Photography

Khaled Sabsabi: A Hope

5 Mar 2022
Campbelltown Arts Centre 4 Jan - 27 Mar 2022

A Hope is the second chapter in a comprehensive survey of Khaled Sabsabi’s multidisciplinary artistic career. The first chapter, A Promise, was exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2020, curated by Matt Cox in close collaboration with Sabsabi. A Hope is on at Campbelltown Arts Centre until 27 March and is curated again by Sabsabi, Cox and Adam Porter. It is the larger of the two exhibitions, offering up eighteen artworks across six distinct spaces. This generous use of the galleries at Campbelltown Arts Centre strives to accommodate Sabsabi’s expansive thinking. His work moves across multiple scales, gesturing to transcendental spiritual heights and sifting through the quotidian aspects of individual and collective life. The exhibition is, at times, overwhelming, staging a lot of large-scale, ambitious projects that deal in complex spiritual and metaphysical ideas. But it also offers moments of quiet reflection and pleasurable symmetries.

To engage with Sabsabi’s work is to become better acquainted with Sufism (Tasawwuf is the proper Arabic term), a mystical-philosophical tradition that runs through Islam. There is a range of Sufi orders that connect to other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, a multi-faith disposition that Sabsabi explores in his work. One of the core commitments of Sufism is the pursuit of nearness to the infinite or, in other words, the Divine (Allah). For Sabsabi, this means experimenting with aesthetic languages that eschew standard modes of perception. Much of his artistic engagement with Sufism is entangled with his personal experiences. The Sufi practice of Dhikr, referring to the recitation of divine verses, calls to mind Sabsabi’s earlier life as a hip hop artist, forming the crew Count on Damage (COD) in Western Sydney during the 1980s. He and his family escaped the Lebanese Civil War and migrated to Western Sydney in 1978, where he continues to live and work. Both A Hope and A Promise are testament to Sabsabi’s rich artistic career, working across painting, video, sound and installation. Over the last four decades he has been a devoted advocate of Western Sydney and its culturally diverse populations, contributing to a range of social and artistic infrastructures.

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