Irhal (expel), hope and the sorrow of displacement
When we sit on a chair we are held in place, stable and secure. A chair is a humble and familiar object. Its value is defined by the comfort it offers as much as its appearance. Many of us often take this comfort for granted.
In Rushdi Anwar's 'Irhal (Expel), Hope and the Sorrow of Displacement', chairs are piled perilously high. But these chairs can’t carry our weight – they can barely hold themselves up. Burnt to a crisp, transformed into charcoal, they form a ruin, a wreck, like a tragic tribute to dispossession and displacement. Through association and allegory, the installation speaks to Anwar’s own experience of exile as a Kurdish refugee. Anwar's hometown was the site of a major chemical massacre in 1988 during the tail-end of the Iran-Iraq war. Anwar's childhood was marked by the conflict. Like many fellow Kurds, and so many other people, he was forced to flee his home. The chairs piled high are the ghosts of denied domesticity.
This cluster of charred wood has been caught mid-collapse yet the chairs have not fully disintegrated. They retain their form. We notice the gentle curve of a back rest here, the solidity of a leg there. They appear to resist their own destruction. The chaotic precarity of a makeshift funeral pyre becomes monumental. These chairs rise out from the charcoal-carpeted ground like a phoenix from the ashes.
There is strength written into their instability. Instruments of rest and relaxation become images of resilience.
burnt wooden chairs, black oxide pigment, charcoal and ash
display dimensions variable
Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2019
Not on display
© Rushdi Anwar
Shown in 1 exhibition
The National 2019: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 Mar 2019–21 Jul 2019