Abdul-Rahman Abdullah


18 March > 4 June 2023

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah works primarily in sculpture and installation. His work explores the intersections of identity, culture and the natural world and reflects on his multi-cultural identity, personal history and Islamic faith.  

In this exhibition, Abdullah presents a suite of three works ruminating on passages of life, each offering a glimpse of the magical in the everyday. Beautifully and realistically carved, these sculptures enchant us by their beauty and calmness, inviting us in for closer observation. A camel, tethered to a perfect circle of rope, sits serenely waiting for our approach. A winged horse, reposed on a bed of white rose petals, looks over its shoulder, calmly expecting our advance. A coiled black snake raises its head towards a chandelier, accepting of our shared interest.       

Each work, skilfully sculpted, is conceptually informed by an Islamic Hadith, a statement attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which serve as a source of guidance for Muslims in their daily lives. Abdullah is attracted to these hadiths due to their often-cryptic nature, openness to interpretation and their function in helping to make sense of the world in which we live. They are ideal for the artist to illustrate many of the ideas which inform his work, including the acceptance that belief and truth are not always the same thing and that such tension keeps us questioning.   

Practical Magic is informed by the hadith “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel”, signifying that we have personal responsibility alongside faith. For Abdullah this personal responsibility is evident in his mother learning about Australian vegetation so that she could continue to live off the land; an understanding of the natural world passed on through mothers for generations, including to Abdullah.

is named after the beautiful, winged horse-like creature that transported the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a single night from Mecca to Jerusalem and ascending to the heavens beyond, described in the Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey). Regarded as both a physical and spiritual journey, The Night Journey represents a defining point for Muslims when belief encounters the unbelievable. Buraq embodies the complex space between doctrine and mythology, where truth is a spectrum of possibilities.

I am your treasure refers to belief that any unpaid charity will appear on the day of judgement as a large snake that declares I am your treasure. To ignore the obligation to generosity invites shadow into the light, accruing indifference in monstrous form. This snake embodies guilt as an intractable weight of absence, reminding us to give freely and walk lightly.

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For the children of migrants there is often a mythologised journey at the core of their outlook; family histories of parents or grandparents undertaking a fraught passage that shaped the circumstances of today. From the arrival of my mother in Australia, to the migratory networks of my ancestors between the Malay peninsula and the islands of Sulawesi, Borneo and Sumatra to distant origins in Taiwan, journeys have been made. When people are required to commit themselves to a seemingly impossible journey, a divine precedence may offer the necessary wings.

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah,  2023

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IMAGES > Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, I am your treasure [detail], 2023, stained wood, Mabe pearl, lighting, 100 x 70 x 70cm (snake). Image courtesy of the artist.
> Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Buraq ,2020, painted wood, 80 x 110 x 230cm. Collection of the Murdoch University. Image courtesy of the artist.