Demons on display at AGNSW

A new exhibition by Afghani artist Khadim Ali will explore political themes of loss, regeneration and resistance.
Demons on display at AGNSW

Khadim Ali, The haunted lotus 2013, gouache, ink and gold leaf on wasli paper.

A series of miniature paintings, hand woven carpets and photographs will feature in The haunted lotus, the latest exhibition of Afghani artist Khadim Ali which opens at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) on 6 March.

‘Ali’s work is really quite deep and engaging, and is a very personal account of contemporary violence in Afghanistan with the way that has affected him and his family’s lives,’ said Macushla Robinson, Assistant Curator, Contemporary International Art.

Robinson said that much of the exhibition draws on the complex political and cultural themes of the region. ‘He is of the Hazara minority and his work really deals with the history and the cultural heritage of those people, and the Bamiyan Buddhas, who were blown up by the Taliban in 2001.

Sydney based Khadim Ali trained at the National College of Arts, Lahore and in the Persian miniature tradition in Tehran, Iran. Working between Sydney, Quetta and Kabul, he is recognised for the use of classical literary narrative within his work to explore contemporary political themes of loss, regeneration and resistance.

The Haunted Lotus exhibition will examines familial ties, cultural vandalism and the dehumanising of the Hazara people in Afghanistan. The show includes fine gouache and ink paintings; a series of large scale and richly coloured rugs, and rhythmic videos that abstractly represent the artist’s working methodology.

‘My demons are the story of my historical self and a people who are displaced and shelterless in the world,’ said Ali.

‘Demonising is the dehumanising of the Hazaras and forcing them to an indescribable dominion where they must abide by a civil law that does not protect them.’

Robinson said that this is the first time that Ali will have a dedicated space within a state institution to show his works. ‘There is a strong focus on Afghanistan because we’re also presenting the exhibition Afghanistan: hidden treasures from the National Museum Kabul’.

‘Ali’s program in particular coincides with that. I know a lot of the Art After Hours programs will also engage with Khadim’s work as a contemporary iteration of his cultural heritage. He’ll be speaking at least one of those events about the experience and his take on the work in the show.’

Following The haunted lotus in the Contemporary project space at AGNSW will be number of other exciting exhibitions. ‘We have Tony Garifilakis, who has a really strong presence on the Australian contemporary art scene in recent times with Melbourne Now and Adelaide Biennale,’ said Robinson.

‘Soda Jerk is also coming up at the end of the year and in the middle we have Tom Nicholson whose thoughtful and nuanced drawings negotiate the difficult terrain of contact between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.’

Khadim Ali’s The Haunted Lotus will run at the AGNSW from 6 March to 1 June 2014.

Afghanistan: hidden treasures from the National Museum Kabul runs at the AGNSW from 7 March to 15 June. 

For more information visit the AGNSW website.

Troy Nankervis

Wednesday 5 February, 2014

About the author

Troy Nankervis is an ArtsHub journalist from Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @troynankervis