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 aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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