In her paintings, table vitrines, immersive installations and videos, Mandy El-Sayegh creates layered anthologies of found text and images from a variety of sources. These include newsprint, advertisements, aerial maps, anatomy books and her father’s Arabic calligraphy, which take on unexpected new meanings through proximity. Set adrift from their original contexts, these fragments become open to multiple readings that are personally, socially or politically determined and undermine the supposed objectivity of language and media. Moving between material, corporeal, linguistic and cultural frameworks, El-Sayegh highlights the constant flux of meaning that is shaped by environment and individual experience.
By emphasizing the boundaries of her chosen medium, El-Sayegh draws attention to the systems that determine how information is categorized, contained and understood. She creates ‘quasi-archives’ in her table vitrines, suggesting associations and references through the objects’ placement in a shared, delineated space. In her Net-Grid canvases, overpainted grids simultaneously structure and obscure the detritus of popular culture. These paintings also reference the primacy of the grid in modernism, which El-Sayegh found alienating: ‘I felt that there was a whole set of systems that I did not know, like a joke that I didn’t get’. Instead, she creates ‘forms [that] bring about questions of legitimate and illegitimate readings of culture and context’, as well as the implicit power structures that determine who legitimizes such readings.