For we are young and free borrows from the second line of the Australian anthem. The phrase speaks to a national perception of a shared identity and politic. As a nation-state, we are relatively young, and politically we see ourselves as having all the freedoms and self-determination associated with a liberal democracy. The work is a manually embroidered depiction of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan. I have deliberately obscured his eyes and changed the colour of the uniform to keep his identity anonymous, and his portrayal symbolic. The work is not about the specific identity of any one soldier, but about what that soldier represents, and how those collective actions relate to the national identity. What does our liberty mean, when our surrogates are explicitly involved in illiberal, destructive actions in other places? What does it do to the agents, and what does it do to those we inflict our agents on? For many in Australia our military is a symbol of authority and security, but only being militarily engaged in invasive wars oversea, anyone who comes across our soldiers in action would only see them as an existential threat.
Abdul Abdullah is an artist from Perth, currently based in Sydney, who works across painting, photography, video, installation and performance. As a self described ‘outsider amongst outsiders’, his practice is primarily concerned with the experience of the ‘other’ in society. Abdullah’s projects have engaged with different marginalized minority groups and he is particularly interested in the experience of young Muslims in the contemporary multicultural Australian context, as well as connecting with creative communities throughout the Asia Pacific. Through these processes and explorations Abdullah extrapolates this outlook to an examination of universal aspects of human nature.
His works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, The Gallery of Modern Art, Artbank, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, The Islamic Museum of Australia and The Bendigo Art Gallery. In 2015 Abdul exhibited at Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and at the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, in 2016 he exhibited at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art and in 2017 he showed at PATAKA Art Museum in New Zealand and with Yavuz Gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong and the Asia Now Art Fair in Paris. Most recently Abdul exhibited at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiangmai, The National Gallery of Australia as part of Infinite Conversations, and was shortlisted along with his brother Abdul-Rahman Abdullah to represent Australia in the 2019 Venice Biennale.