A young man in a floral shirt opens the door for us, one of two new lodgers at Sati Zech’s home. The Berlin-based artist has taken in brothers Wael and Hossam, both refugees from Aleppo.
For some months now, they have lived together with Sati and her Dalmatian Rudy in her charmingly chaotic apartment in Berlin’s Charlottenburg.
The brothers’ distinct impact of her life is clear from the apartment’s interior. Until now the walls were adorned exclusively with the works of other artists and students. After the brothers moved in, Sati decided to hang two pieces of her own, wanting to share her work with “her boys.” Both pieces — an abstract painting in her signature lush red tones and a springy sculpture made of interlocking, stuffed black leather rings — represent different periods of her work, and immediately capture our attention.
Art and handcrafts make their presence known in the communal spaces of Zech’s apartment, where the living, eating and working areas flow seamlessly into one another. Directly next to the kitchen and dining table, where a vase of vibrant lilies takes pride of place, is a workbench — the site of a wax sculpture underway. In every nook and cranny are photos, drawings, books and art objects from around the world. Sati’s motley assemblage of colourful furniture spans serious design classics to inviting second-hand pieces from the ‘70s.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online, who presents a special curation of our pictures on ZEIT Magazin Online.
“Often at an exhibition I notice that that a work still ‘needs’ something. The works are only just out, and I’m still working onwards.”
Zech explains that the apartment, where she has lived for the last fifteen years, has been furnished with flexibility in mind — with nothing completely fixed in place everything is free to be disassembled in no time or taken along to a new place.
The interior arrangement embodies Sati’s constantly changing way of thinking, itself a recurring theme in her artworks. Nothing Saati begins is ever truly finished, “Often at an exhibition I notice that a work still ‘needs’ something. The works are only just out, and I’m still working onwards.” This restlessness and desire are clearly evident at our next stop — the artist’s studio in Berlin’s Moabit.
Here, an aesthetic chaos reigns, made of paper works, painted strips of fabric, working materials and palettes of hand-mixed oil paints. It’s here that Zech devotes herself with great energy to her Bollenpaintings, a series of works in which round forms of different sizes, aligned at varying distances apart, come to life in vibrant red. First exhibited at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in 2006, the works have since been thought out into new directions by Sati.
“These works are about communication. The single ‘Bollen’ are like elements of a piece of music, or flags, or skin that’s been branded.”
Inspiration for the artist is manifold –– from the voluminous and sensual traditional artforms of numerous African countries to the theme of femininity. The rhythmic compositions of the “Bollen paintings” are intended to connect with their audience, “These works are about communication. The single Bollen are like elements of a piece of music, or flags, or skin that’s been branded.”
For Zech, communication is equally important outside of her artistic endeavors— something that becomes clear to us over the days we spend with her. From speaking passionately to us about art or — as in the case of her new lodgers — approaching refugees waiting to be registered right next door at the Centre for Health and Social Affairs — Sati Zech reaches out to people, seeks an exchange, broadens her experience. It’s the kind of drive that’s both incredibly motivating and refreshing to witness.