THE DARK BEAUTY AND EPHEMERAL APPEARANCE OF LIQUID MEMORIES: MUSTAFA SABBAGH
Posted on May 28, 2012 by Isabella Cecconi
Edgy, dark, seductive, mysterious, achingly beautiful. It’s hard defining Mustafa Sabbagh’s photography. It’s even harder to write about someone you know personally and appreciate. It’s engaging but at the same time extremely ‘funambulesque’. On my way to Ferrara, for the opening of his exhibition, on May the19th 2012 at the Palazzo Massari, I thought how thirsty and eager I was to see once again his pictures. Sixteen photographs and two installations, have been protagonists of Memorie Liquide, a body of work born from the encounter with magnificent paintings by Giovanni Boldini, the celebrated portrait painter of the Belle Epoque, and in close dialogue with the spaces of Palazzo Massari who hosts the monographic museum. Located along the halls, the shots of the Jordanian-Italian photographer dialogue with fine art and its environment. A gloomy and out of space atmosphere that reincarnates memory and nostalgic remembrances of a far away world. The selection of photographs, presented along the path of the museum, portrays hidden figures behind fetish masked models wearing various objects such as forks, wigs, blinkers, hats, veils, stuffed birds all styled by Simone Valsecchi, who has collaborated with artists such as Luca Ronconi and Peter Greenaway. Sabbagh’s figures are juxtaposed with nocturnal landscapes, his images are shot with extreme care and refinement; Mustafa is an expert and obsessive for details, precision, realism and technical composition. Being a technical expert, means capturing the subject and plunging it in the depth of dark gray and cobalt, locking it in hieratic poses, both front or profile, as if carved on ancient roman medals. In both fiction of disguise or real life-like attitude, Sabbagh’s subjects are shielded by masks, vehicles of detection of the self and its instinct. Matrons and knights of the XXI century, dandys in elegant leather jackets, sick muses, forced into corsets are then frozen in their ephemeral appearance, indifferent to the time like the smoke of their cigarettes. Appearance is the central affirmation of the self. Mustafa’s pictures are irreverent and melancholic, violently sensual, complex and controversial. His portraits are a celebration of the social and witness of our era and existence.
In few words I’d say he never empties the bucket of mystery nor never defines the predictable. His vision can be painful, joyful, celebrative of the human body and beauty, even gut-wrenching, at times. Posers and poses are an outstanding art form captured on camera with a perfect sense of lighting and composition. Simply, he shoots in a style that is just his: indisputable.