We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Abdul Abdullah Untitled self-portrait

oil and aerosol on linen

183 x 163 cm

Abdul Abdullah is a five-time Archibald Prize finalist and is also a finalist in this year’s Sulman Prize. He says of his self-portrait: ‘The only thing I am certain of is my uncertainty, and in times of uncertainty there’s something cathartic and self-affirming about constructing something only to destroy it.

‘In this self-portrait I borrowed from the traditional illusionary strategies of representative portraiture to construct a version of myself that characterised a personal, chronic sense of societal discomfort, before taking a $16 can of spray-paint to cover it up.

‘It was important to me that this wasn’t just a design element – the act of defacing is integral to its purpose. It doesn’t matter how long it took to make the painting, what matters is my agency and my choice. Few things are too precious that there is no value in their interrogation, everything that is built can be rebuilt, and no tradition inherently oppressive is worth maintaining.

‘I finished the painting the way I wanted, with two eyes and two ears that look out uncertainly towards something else.’

Born in 1986 in Perth, Abdullah has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Curtin University.

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