LONDON – Shezad Dawood’s exhibition at Parasol Unit is an eclectic mix of colour, music, photography and performance. At the well-attended opening last Thursday, admirers of Dawood’s work milled through the gallery spaces of Parasol Unit. I was struck by Dawood’s framed and hanging tapestries, particularly by Mên-an-Tol, 2013. Dawood creates these by superimposing photographic images of mystical sites onto double-sided, hand-woven tapestries from Pakistan, upon which he paints additional images. Other visitors chose to take a closer look at some of his light sculptures, some of which are formed by encircling taxidermied birds by glowing neon light rings. The circle is a frequent image in Dawood’s work; it is associated with mystical views of self and soul, as is shown in The Black Sun, 2010, another light sculpture.
Shezad Dawood: Mên-an-Tol, 2013. Acrylic on vintage textile, 200 x 274 cm. Courtesy Paradise Row, London.
The real show-stoppers, however, are two short films, one of which is premiering in the UK for the first time. In keeping with Dawood’s interests, Towards the Possible Film, 2014, is a mesmerizing production with blue aliens, ominous music, and battle dances. It was filmed at Legzira Beach in Sidi Ifni, Morocco, and the film distorts the sandy beach surrounded by rocks to create an arid and bare terrain surrounded by water. Dawood drew upon the volatile and combative history of the region as a source of inspiration; his film highlights the encroachment of opposing races, as inhabitants of this land react to an alien landing. In contrast, the other film A Mystery Play, 2010, is a black and white ensemble of enigmatic burlesque images and Masonic rituals.
Shezad Dawood: Towards the Possible Film (production still), 2014. Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, Delfina Foundation and in association with Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art.
Dawood’s art explores the interplay between cultures and eras; he is himself the product of a rich cultural exchange with South Asian parents who settled in the UK. Working with a variety of mediums and scales, Dawood draws upon arrangements of history, traditions, mythology, mysticism and science fiction, and invites his audience to connect with these quirky yet poignant tributes.
Shezad Dawood: A Mystery Play (production still), 2010. Super 16 mm transferred to HD, 15 minutes. Commissioned by Plug In ICA, Winnipeg. Courtesy of LUX, London.
Ishrat Kanga is a specialist in the Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art department, Sotheby’s London.