Abdul Abdullah featured in The National 4 at The Art Gallery of NSW

28 Mar 2023

The National is a biennial survey of contemporary Australian art. The latest edition, The National 4: Australian Art Now, brings together 48 new artist projects from throughout the country, across generations and communities, featuring over 80 artists. This collaboration is hosted by four prominent cultural institutions in Sydney: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Campbelltown Arts Centre (C-A-C), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia).

Abdul Abdullah’s works are now on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (NSW), facing Brenda L. Croft’s Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me) at the entry of the gallery hall. As a curatorial choice, having Abdullah’s Decision, which broadcasts the sentence “Have a think about” against Croft’s works, frames the agenda of the fourth iteration of The National, a biennial survey of Australian art seeking to expand our understanding of art’s protagonists. Abdullah’s works feature landscapes and seascapes of nature that are personified, and among his recurring motifs are anthropomorphized rocks paired with a vista overlaid with handwritten text that does not necessarily align with the visual representation. The juxtaposed elements reveal the contradictions between an individual’s true identity, their public persona, and how others perceive them. Underscoring Abdullah’s post-9/11 experiences with Islamophobia and stereotypes as a Muslim Australian.

Partly inspired by the breaking waves image featured in the Australian Government’s ‘NO WAY’ poster for its military-backed Operation Sovereign Borders campaign in 2014, these works allude to the geographic and political challenges experienced by asylum seekers who are forcefully deterred from entering Australia illegally by boat. Additionally, the works reflect the insular mentality of some Australians who hold xenophobic and sometimes racist attitudes towards immigration, multiculturalism, and border control. In addition, with the rising global sea levels and recent devastating floods in Australia, a possible interpretation of the works in question as prophetic signs of climate change and global warming. Abdullah’s captivating pieces depicting landscapes and seascapes reflect his ongoing efforts to reveal honest perspectives, question and challenge stereotypes and misconceptions, and directly confront xenophobic attitudes and racial biases.

The National 4: Australian Art Now that features Abdul Abdullah is curated by Beatrice Gralton at the Art Gallery of NSW and is on display until 23 July 2023.

Image: Abdul Abdullah, Steady as it goes, 2023, Oil on linen, 198 cm x 162.5 cm