Shezad Dawood @Modern Art Oxford


If you plan on heading down to Modern Art Oxford any time soon prepare yourself for a shock. The walls will not be covered with paintings, nor will the galleries be full of sculpture. Instead, you will be confronted with a giant white doughnut in which you will be instructed to sit and become introduced to the spellbinding work of Shezad Dawood.

The exhibition is a bewildering experience consisting of film and a few textile paintings. The first film, entitled Trailer, is quite literally an experimental trailer for the artists’ feature length film, incidentally going by the same name as the exhibition, Piercing Brightness. It is a blur of movement, examining themes of immigration and identity in 15minutes. Although from watching it, iviewers can see issues of race and migration, I can’t honestly say that I understood anything more than the basic influences on the plot. This was all observed from a purpose built sofa, which looked like a giant polo mint, thus involving the audience in the art.

The next film, or kinetic light sculpture, as it has been labeled, is entitled New Dream Machine Project. This ‘project’ has heavily influence from Moroccan culture in the 1960’s and the original work of the same name by Brio Gysin, introducing it to a new, younger demographic. This visual offering is an intense display of flickering lights and colour and is definitely not for the faint hearted – I left feeling a little dizzy. The music used in the piece, which I take to be Moroccan, has been distorted, and is played on repeat throughout, though after a while it is purely annoying, enough to drive even the most sane person crazy.

Dawood’s textile paintings are a vast juxtaposition from the artist’s intense films and act almost as a haven of serenity after the heavily animated lights and colours of the rest of the exhibition. These paintings were constructed on vintage fabrics with acrylic paint and look like tribal prints. It is clear here to see the artists’ interest in cultures as he meshes various influences onto the one backdrop.

The show is a surreal experience. At first the viewer is sucked inside a sci-fi thriller and then transported back to the most calm island on earth to view a very honest and appreciative display of Dawood’s admiration of cultural diversity within the textile paintings. I still don’t know what it really means and I don’t think Dawood really wants to explain either, rather he wants to provoke thought from his audience. This is not the kind of exhibition to go see if you just want to look at a pretty painting, but if you are after a paranormal experience this is definitely for you.

Shezad Dawood – Piercing Brightness is on display at Modern Art Oxford until 10 June 2012.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine and Reorient.

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