Cool Hunter Predictions: Abdul Abdullah

2015 was nothing short of a watershed year for Perth-born Abdul Abdullah.

Words: Andrew Nicholls

2015 was nothing short of a watershed year for Perth-born Abdul Abdullah. After relocating to Sydney in January to undertake masters study, he and his work were, seemingly, everywhere. He was selected for Primavera 2015, the Asia Pacific Triennial, PICA Salon and Hong Kong’s Sovereign Art Prize. He exhibited at Sydney Contemporary, at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Art15 in London and Video Stage at Art Stage Singapore, and undertook speaking engagements including TEDX Youth at the Sydney Opera House. The Art Gallery of Western Australia chose Abdullah and elder brother Abdul-Rahman to launch its new WA Focus series with a duo exhibition, purchasing five of the works for its collection, while the artist held his first international solo show, Coming to Terms, at New York’s Chasm Gallery, following on the heels of a group residency in the United Kingdom.

For anyone not already familiar, Abdullah’s practice critiques religious and racial marginalisation, a response to his experiences growing up Muslim in post-9/11, post-Hanson Australia, frequently called upon to justify or defend his place here despite being a seventh-generation Australian. His highly staged, often darkly comedic photographs frequently employ his own tattooed, muscular body, adorned with various costumes and props to camp on Western culture’s historical fetishisation and fear of the Islamic subject. His accomplished painted portraits grant his (largely) Aboriginal, Eurasian and Muslim subjects heroic status, as in his third Archibald-shortlisted work, 2014’s portrait of Richard Bell.

Though his practice is rooted in a very Australian experience, the sale of numerous works to British and American collectors via last year’s New York and London showings evidences Abdullah’s increasingly international appeal. His work-in-development for the upcoming Basil Sellers Art Prize references Muhammad Ali’s 1968 appearance on Firing Line, in which the boxer discussed his Islamic faith and virulent opposition to the Vietnam War. It was “one of the first times in popular contemporary television media that Islam as a religion was emphasised as an immediate threat to American/Australian/British concerns,” Abdullah explains. The Basil Sellers Art Prize opens in July. Other 2016 highlights include projects for Nextwave and Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery and a solo show with his representing gallery Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne.

IMAGES COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND FEHILY CONTEMPORARY, MELBOURNE

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 75, JAN – MAR 2016. 

FOLLOW THIS ARTIST

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

READ MORE

Michael Zavros: Real Human

A Michael Zavros doppelgänger in the form of a custom mannequin is the subject of the painter’s latest foray into photography.

New Directions: Simon Ingram

Those artists who have recently taken their practice somewhere different.

New Directions: Katy B Plummer

Those artists who have recently taken their practice somewhere different.

Collectors Love: Jelena Telecki

Our writers look at the artists who have caught the attention of collectors in the past year and achieved sell-out shows.

Artist Profile: Marie Le Lievre

A defining feature of Marie Le Lievre’s work is her ability to masterfully blend colour across multiple layers, creating a hypnotic visual depth in every painting.

Artist Profile: Jumaadi

Based on a life lived between two worlds, Jumaadi’s works speak a language we all understand, drawing deeply from the well of common humanity.