As a seventh-generation Muslim Australian of mixed ethnicity who grew up in suburban Perth (an ‘outsider amongst outsiders’), Abdul Abdullah’s (b. 1986) multi-disciplinary practice is motivated by a longstanding concern on the complex feelings of displacement and alienation associated with histories of diaspora and migration. Providing a voice to these rarely told topics, he creates carefully crafted political commentaries that speak of the ‘Other’ and the experiences of marginalised communities. While the fraught dynamic of Muslim experiences have provided the initial framework, Abdullah has consciously expanded his practice to include a broader sense of marginalisation, and the disjunctures between perception/projection of identity and the reality of lived experience. Identifying as a Muslim and having both Malay/Indonesian and convict/settler Australian heritage, Abdullah occupies a precarious space in the political discourse that puts him at odds with popular definitions. He sees himself as an artist working in the peripheries of a peripheral city, in a peripheral country, orbiting a world on the brink. Abdullah’s works intersect between popular culture, contemporary conflicts and personal experience, renegotiating histories to create space for alternative possibilities and new conversations. Grounding his outlook with an expansive cultural geography that belies reductive boundaries of nationality, Abdullah represents a new face of emerging artists from the Asia-Pacific region.
Abdullah has exhibited internationally extensively across Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Germany. Recent curated exhibitions include: Un/learning Australia, Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2022); Monster Theatres, Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia (2020); Stories We Tell To Scare Ourselves With, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2019); and DIASPORA: Exit, Exile, Exodus of Southeast Asia, MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand (2018). His work is collected by numerous institutions including: the National Gallery of Australia; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (Australia); Museum of Contemporary Art (Australia); and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum (Thailand). In 2019, he was awarded the inaugural Australian Muslim Artist Art Prize. He is also a five-time Archibald Prize finalist and five-time Sulman Prize finalist, the most prestigious art prizes in Australia, a rarity for an artist of his years.