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Bridging Hope

Feature Artist: Spotlight on Abdul Abdullah


Creative Precinct artist Abdul Abdullah has had an eventful few months: In the past six months he has had the opportunity to speak at the Dhaka Art Summit, show twice in Paris, once in Bangkok and across several regional spaces around Australia, as well as part of collection shows at QAGOMA in Queensland and at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

Now there are two current projects that he is currently working on and particularly proud of: two new works that he is showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of the current Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, and his upcoming solo presentation ‘Custodians’ at the Armory show in New York with Yavuz Gallery.

The 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres

This past week saw the opening of the 30th  Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The show, curated by Leigh Robb, featured two new works of Abdul’s; a sculptural installation titled ‘Understudy’ (2020), and a large embroidery titled ‘Breach’ (2020). “The works continue an ongoing investigation into how ‘monsters’ have been used in cinema and literature as stand-ins for broad societal anxieties, including immigration, epidemics and the environment, and how the projection of monstrosity on marginalised bodies has been used to justify suppression and ill-treatment,” explained Abdul. These projects were made with the assistance of Makeup Effects Group, Sydney, and DGTMB Studios, Yogyakarta.

The Armory Show NYC

This coming week Abdul will be opening a new solo presentation with Yavuz Gallery at the Armory Show in New York. The 12 meter painting is an extension of the ocean imagery that he presented at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2019, and at ‘Contested Territories’ at Yavuz Gallery in Sydney in the same year. In Abdul’s words: “The work Custodians uses a raging sea as metaphor for the journey we seem unwilling to take. Dark and treacherous, it roars as an obstacle between where we are and where we want to be. Whether the literal obstacle of a person crossing an ocean to seek refuge from war, or the seas swallowing our coasts, to the personal journeys we undertake every day to overcome the challenges that stand between us and our goals. As I painted it, I imagined myself standing on a shore or a boat, gripped by fear, as I consider the journey and challenge in front of me. To step forward risks everything, but to remain stagnant ensures catastrophe.”

“The scenes overlaying the seascape draw from different personal memories, perspectives and observations. Some reference very specific political and cultural moments, some are imagined, and others are a combination of both. These figures fight and fornicate in an uninhibited tableau; either the pin-balling thoughts of an unhinged artist, or depictions of our world gone mad. While we fight amongst ourselves it will be left to our children to rectify and mend the damage we leave behind.”

Recent publications

This month we will also be able to see Abdul and his work on the cover of two Australian Art publications. The WA-focused edition of Art Monthly Australasia edited by Dunja Rumandic features an image from the 2012 collaborative project, ‘The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’ with Nathan Beard and Casey Ayres, and the March edition of Art Almanac features ‘Understudy 1’ from 2019. You can also read a recent feature in the Guardian that looks at his practice and some of his recent controversies here.

Bridging Hope