Hasani Sahlehe: Singing in the Response at Tops Gallery

By November 16, 2022
Hasani Sahlehe, Orange Jazz Club with Unresolved Emotions, 2022, acrylic on raw canvas, 65 x 55 inches. Image courtesy of Tops Gallery.
Horst P. Horst: Essence of the times on view at SCAD FASH in Atlanta through April 16

Where many hone in, rewriting the details of their circumstances and illustrating their immediate place in the world, Hasani Sahlehe zooms out. Sahlehe’s work pushes self-study beyond the bounds of the individual, temporally and spiritually expanding. As curator Daniel Fuller describes, “This is where life starts. As the grids of the skyscrapers disappear on the horizon, we dissolve with them. The air is heavy. We are slowly losing order. As the clean blocks, the rows, and the lines cease to function; we are left staring into a mirror where we barely recognize ourselves.” Fuller alludes to a higher state, a dissolution of ego. Here, we lose ourselves, trading the certainty of the present for a profound recollection. Perhaps we don’t remember the details, but we remember how it felt, and feels—still.

Hasani Sahlehe, Blue Pyramid with Stars, 2022, acrylic on raw canvas, 14 x 11 inches. Image courtesy of Tops Gallery.

The title of the exhibition, Singing in the Response, references “call-and-response,” a compositional technique rooted in historic African religious and music traditions where one voice calls out and is echoed by another, or many. Sahlehe’s paintings employ a similar method, reflecting traces of an original moment in successive iterations. Works like Blue Building with Songs suggest a tangible architecture, flattened and blurred to communicate some essential spirit. Saturated eyes of color bleed out into softly-washed planes; pyramids rise like roads to a horizon. Blue Pyramid with Stars’ rich, velvety blues dance playfully among orbs of scarlet, brown, and yellow. There is a synesthetic quality to these compositions, inviting the presence of voices or melodies. In Orange Jazz Club with Unresolved Emotions, the blurred skeleton of an interior is formed from swaths of pale apricot, lined with pillars of lavender and striped with intense green: a space where warm music and complex sentiments reverberate on equal planes.

Sahlehe’s paintings echo a personal and perhaps collective history, serving as impressions of simultaneously corporeal and emotional moments. This remembering draws us to feel into a place that thinking can’t quite access, to dissolve the stories we tell ourselves and simply recall. Singing in the Response forms one chorus, calling back to moments past and culminating in one elusive dream.

Hasani Sahlehe: Singing in the Response is on view at Tops Gallery in Memphis, TN through November 19th.

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