Tanya Leighton is proud to present Altered Future, a selection of new paintings, drawings and sculptures by artists from the gallery’s programme. Our present reality has taken a counterfactual turn. We are made unavoidably aware that the course of world events can be unexpectedly diverted, and that even apparently singular events are differently experienced by communities and consciousnesses. In Altered Future, intergenerational artistic voices reflect upon fragility, daring to imagine new landscapes of labour, desire, identity and community. The artworks are contextualised and elaborated through short videos and commissioned texts by art historians and critics including Shiva Balaghi, Sonja-Maria Borstner and Sabrina Tarasoff.
When Elif Saydam begins a new series of paintings or writings, it is often based on the polyphony of stories behind objects and places. Examining our personal attachments to the things that surround us, Saydam addresses the relationship between the construction of social and aesthetic categories. Their paintings are decorated in detail with recurring symbols, sequins, beads and text excerpts, alongside embroidered and gilded elements, which the artist encountered in public and private spaces. By using the valuable material of 23-carat gold in their canvases, Saydam employs a “gimmick” – a false track that is laid – in which the shiny material trickily draws the focus to itself in order to skilfully mask what is actually at stake.
Their new paintings Making lemonade and Zu spät (IV) (both 2021) draw from Saydam’s expanded painting practice, which is often dedicated to the figure of the artist as both a carefree dilettante and indentured producer. In Zu spät (IV), for instance, ‘Kein Mensch ist illegal’ (No human being is illegal) is written in a semi-legible way on a billowing cloth mounted on a heavily decorated balcony above a Kiosk called ‘Glückskäfer’ (lucky beetle) in a typical old Berlin building. Here, the lucky beetle, embodying the search for luck, sheds light to false promises and unachievable fantasies of the good life in late capitalism (e.g., affordable housing, security, political and social equality), which, in our current times, can be attained less and less.
There’s an aphorism that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what happens if it’s not possible to add the “ade” to the lemon, and your sweet drink eventually turns out to be an artificial mixture (like the “Durstlöscher” juice boxes in Making lemonade) that has nothing to do with the actual fruit anymore? Little marks reminiscent of ornamentation used in traditional Ottoman miniatures resemble red teardrops that – following Lauren Berlant’s theory – speak of the cruelness that underlies optimism.
I started making Späti paintings almost as a nod to American realism paintings as the ultimate fantasy, the ultimate destination, something worth venerating, while I was daydreaming about meeting a group of friends on the curb when it really wasn’t possible anymore. It is funny to me how low the bar can be set for what constitutes a fantasy and how adaptable we are at rearranging our desires.
Elif Saydam (born in 1985 in Calgary, Canada) lives and works in Berlin. They studied in Montréal, Canada, and Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘...schläft sich durch’ at Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof in 2021; ‘Everybody’s Fool’ at Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, ‘Gut feeling’ at Tanya Leighton, Berlin, and ‘Selfing’ at Melange, Cologne, all in 2020; ‘What me worry’ at Stadium, Berlin, and ‘La belle dame sans merci’ at Franz Kaka, Toronto in 2019.
Their works have been shown internationally in group exhibitions including ‘Lose Enden’ at Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland in 2021; ‘Luxury and Glamour. The Wilfulness of the Superfluous’ at Landes-Stiftung Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Bonn in 2020; ‘Made in Balmoral’ at Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems, Germany in 2019; ‘Jahresgaben’ at Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft, Nuremberg, and ‘Croissant’ at MMK Museum for Modern Art, Frankfurt am Main, both in 2016.
Saydam will have a solo exhibition at Tanya Leighton, Berlin in April 2022.