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

Abdul Abdullah Self-portrait after MD 2

oil on linen

40.7 x 51.5 cm

In 2022, Abdul Abdullah saw South African artist Marlene Dumas’s exhibition open-end at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Italy.

‘I was particularly taken by the familiarity and playfulness of her 2018 painting iPhone, which depicts what I assume are her own hands holding a blank phone, with a simple cream foreground and dark background. When I went to take a photo of the work with my own phone, I was surprised by my reflection in the dark screen. I wasn’t smiling at the camera or projecting how I hoped to be seen. I was just there, neutral and messy,’ says the six-time Archibald finalist.

‘A through-line in my practice is exploring the tension between the perception of a person or community, and the reality of their lived experience,’ Abdullah says. ‘In that moment in the museum, I was briefly caught in a loop of my hands mirroring hers; an analogue reflection being caught in a digital device, capturing an analogue painting of a digital device. Much of my engagement with the outside world comes through platforms designed to edit, embellish and filter how we are seen, but at that point the screen was off, and I saw myself.’

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