Submitted Review

Abdul Abdullah and Abdul-Rahman Abdullah ‘Peripheries’

  • Moore Contemporary • Perth

  • 06 August—10 September 2021

  • Nyanda Smith • Published 10 August 2021

  • Commissioned Article

‘The works cumulatively interrogate discursive productions, both exterior and interior.’

Peripheries brings together the work of brothers Abdul Abdullah and Abdul-Rahman Abdullah – in a form of dialogue from the artists’ respective geographic locations on either side of the country – in Perth and Sydney. Hand-carved wooden sculptures by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah are positioned throughout the gallery so as to intersect with oil paintings by Abdul Abdullah – the works cumulatively interrogating discursive productions, both exterior and interior. An intimacy exists in the way the parallel bodies of work gently respond to each other, perhaps born from shared, familial, experiences.

Ornament (2021), by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah is a sculpture of a French bulldog. Standing forthrightly upon a carved cushion, both the dog, and her seat, are captured in motion: rippling folds, taut cambers and padding paws exploring the physics of the corporeal. Placed high on a plinth, the work evokes historical practices of objectification and reverential preservation of fauna: the heavily-coded structures of the human-animal relationship. Same time tomorrow (2020) further explores these complexities – a goat rests acquiescently, chained by its leather collar to the wall. Rose-tinged ears, hairs and veins are represented in detail; a set of real-life horns with weathered patina fusing to wood.

Tall Ghost (2021) interrogates codification of the metaphysical. A figure is clothed in a sheet, sinewy folds evoking the drapery of Classical Greek sculpture. What lies underneath the cloth is left unknown – the form exists, simply, as an artefact of human narrative. Abdullah’s refined, almost-life-size sculptures explore both an acute realism and materiality: up close, the signs of labour – joins, glue, woodgrain under paint – are left purposefully overt. The result dexterously points to the construction of meaning, and to the inherent slipperiness of this process.

Abdul Abdullah’s series of paintings explore the natural world through depictions of the ocean. Engaging with a painting tradition that stretches back to Courbet and Turner, the works investigate the untamed movement of stormy seas – angular rock formations jutting above frothing waters. Across the tumultuous seascapes Abdullah has painted – in searing white, all-caps – ubiquitous platitudes: ‘Things usually work out’, and ‘I am probably fine’. These colloquialisms exist as social techniques that function to avoid, smooth over, or cover up, emotional states that threaten to disrupt order. In You’re ok (2021), Distant thoughts (2021), and Thinking about things (2021) ancient geological timepieces are modified by the application of cartoonish hands and symbols of base emotional expression: variously, a smiley, sad and neutral face. Through this juxtaposition, the source of motion – the forces that push, then pull –  are written onto the interior realm.

Together, the works in the exhibition proffer strands of inquiry that overlap at their edges to provoke questions about the negotiation of humanity within the stratified codes of our constructed world.