Since opening our summer exhibition, An Assembly of Shapes, I‘ve found myself returning to Teto Elsiddique’s work a dog without a master (2017) again and again. The painting features a dynamic central figure, depicted in dimensional, vivid colour that is so saturated it appears to glow from within. This week I found myself focused on the unusual form that makes up the figure’s boot, realizing I had seen Elsiddique use a similar form in another work—watering the new with the dirt of the old (2017)—though in this instance the boot was not a boot at all, but a watering can sprinkling a flower.
This is only one example of the many forms that reappear across Elsiddique’s paintings. This repetition isn’t merely an “Easter egg”—the kind of hidden message often buried in video games or television to reward attentive audiences—but rather embodies Elsiddique’s overall approach to images and forms. He once wrote of his practice:
Perhaps, it is this element of play that seems to run through much of my work, that invites a peculiar form of engagement. This is not merely an aesthetic excavation of the past but a proposal to see the old anew—to challenge the ways of knowing associated with representation, with the inanimate and the seemingly apolitical. Reconfigured pasts and possible futures are drawn. It is in this improvisational, contingent space between the two that my work so singularly points.
This call to reexamine what we’re looking at—and what we’re not—runs throughout much of Elsiddique’s work, prompting us to look closely and look again. There is always more than meets the eye, the artists reminds us, in the images we encounter, both those we find in art contexts and those that circulate more broadly.
Image: Teto Elsiddique, a dog without a master (installation view), 2017, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.