Critics’ Picks

View of “Azza El Siddique and Teto Elsiddique: fire is love, water is sorrow – a distant fire,” 2021.

View of “Azza El Siddique and Teto Elsiddique: fire is love, water is sorrow – a distant fire,” 2021.

Toronto

Azza El Siddique and Teto Elsiddique

Towards Gallery
163 Sterling Road Unit 144
September 23–November 6, 2021

Azza El Siddique and Teto Elsiddique’s exhibition, “fire is love, water is sorrow – a distant fire,” vibrates with “traces of a still-trembling past,” a line from a text written by Teto prior to his death in 2017. Azza, Teto’s sister, welded forms from his paintings onto steel sheets. The lines of melted metal in these pieces are slightly unsteady, as if humming. Teto’s paintings likewise capture a kinetic energy. Together, their works buzz with the presence of life—even in death. 

The presentation includes “a distant fire,” 2017, the last series of paintings Teto created, and Azza’s responses to them. A metal scaffolding, a signature of Azza’s work, fills the gallery. Rectangular frames elegantly descend from the skeletal structure and tightly embrace the canvases. This call-and-response model makes it feel as though we’re eavesdropping on the siblings. A picture by Teto, boots for washing hands, 2017, and its sculptural twin by Azza, a family obligation, 2021, hang back-to-back in the middle of the room. Like an echo, a murmur from the past is propelled into the future. The works whisper to one another, faintly but palpably.

Teto’s paintings capture the topography of various objects: a cigarette, poker chips, and doll parts. When looked at closely, the images appear as if they are pressing in on themselves; his rendered shadows create the illusion of depth. Teto seeks out the ungraspable by depicting the motion of life in two dimensions. 

Azza’s reimaginings of Teto’s art, profound articulations of grief, are notably devoid of his distinct palette, which included sweet pinks, radiant oranges, and regal blues. A small monitor in the corner of the space features a slideshow of speculative paintings—based on Teto’s work and some of the source materials he used for it—that the artist might have created if he were still alive. Once again, the traces of a still-trembling past remain.