Rihab Essayh : As With All Warriors of Love
Essayh’s work emphasizes concept and theme more than process and technique in its primary impact on the viewer - but in her studio practice, she employs a deeply invested and laborious process, and virtuosic technique in a number of media to achieve her ambitious goal of uniting the sensory and the sensitive, the spatially encompassing with the emotionally embracing. Her captivating drawings depict subjects the artist knows and associates with, both celebrating and psychologizing them in a kind of personal hagiography - her friends become saintly figures in her work, images of idealistic human progress. Their presence and placement here is crucial to understanding the meaning of this show specifically, but they also imply that we may all participate, that each of us could be a spectral member of Essayh's sisterhood in effect, on an abstract level.
In this exhibition, Essayh has created a unified environment by installing a series of beautifully hand-sewn and hand-dyed curtains around the perimeter of the gallery, and addressed herself to a greater-than visual methodology of what her built sanctuary can be by including a video and sound component that fuses songwriting and aural composition into the mix, seducing and supporting us equally with an ethereal ability that comes from all sides. As With All Warriors of Love the exhibition and the phrase refers to her Moroccan background in certain specifics, and her artistic influences and personal relationships, among other things - but most of all, it temporally and spatially refers to what healing magic can be created by the artist for the viewer, through having been a viewer - and friend - herself.
Rihab Essayh was born in Morocco and raised in Montreal. She completed her MFA at the University of Guelph in 2022. Her work has been shown at the Art Council of Montreal, Centrale Powerhouse Gallery, FOFA Gallery, Never Apart, the plumb and the Art Gallery of Guelph. Her work is also currently on view as part of solo exhibitions in Arsenal Toronto's project space and Union Gallery.
The artist would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.