A body of self-portraiture by Khadija Saye (1992-2017), an emerging artist who died in the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017, is to be displayed at Kettle’s Yard gallery, Cambridge in the new year.
Titled Dwelling: in this space we breathe, Saye’s tintype self-portraits focus on spirituality that transcends specific religions, inspired by her own domestic space, which contained traces of Christian and Islamic worship as well as Gambian rituals passed down from her ancestors.
In her own words
Via a series of Instagram takeovers for Metro Imaging, Saye shared the ideas behind her Dwelling series of photographs, which were exhibited within the Diaspora Pavilion during the 57th Venice Biennale, curated by David A Bailey and Jessica Taylor.
She revealed the influences behind her work, which included having grown up in a multi-faith household in the UK; being Gambian in a European context; and fifteenth-century portraiture; which she reflected on to produce new dialogues around race and religion, examining how portraiture could function as a way of expressing one’s ‘piety, virtue, soul and prosperity’.
The Dwelling series was created using nineteenth-century photographic techniques, with the help of artist Almudena Romero. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but since this period artists have harnessed the process in order to make timeless photography with the depth which Saye achieved.
The artist was mentored by portraitist Nicola Green, and made the majority of her work in her home, which was her studio. Green, along with Dave Lewis and Ingrid Swenson, set up the Khadija Saye Memorial Fund earlier this year, to support young artists to realise their potential.
Andrew Nairne, director of Kettle’s Yard, met with Saye having seen her work at the Venice Biennale, inviting her to be part of the gallery’s reopening show, Actions. The image of the world can be different, which launches in February 2018.
Discover more about the show, which features work by 38 international artists, at kettlesyard.co.uk