The Balancing Act
- When 30 Apr - 2 May 2015
Cnr Oxford St & Greens Rd, Paddington
Abdullah M. I. Syed's exhibition The Balancing Act is the culmination of PhD research entitled ‘Exploding Masculinities’ that locates new ways of ‘seeing’ while demystifying the myths of Islamic masculinity.
The research identifies a general disregard for the traditional Islamic gender concepts of jalāl (majesty) and jamāl (beauty), diverse polar attitudes against the figural representations in Islam and inadequate alternative readings to the hegemonic Western notions of Islamic male identity that are often imposed in studies in the Islamic world; further mystifying the representation of male bodies in the contemporary art of Pakistan.
The exhibition reveals a series of common visual tropes of the male body employed by contemporary Pakistani artists and craftspeople, whose coded symbolism is unpacked in Syed's works under the poetic expression of jalāl and jamāl as forms of beauty, majesty and light. These concepts provide a unique visual and performative model of ‘balanced masculinity’ that is fluid, heterogeneous, and polymorphic in dimension.
The research outcome, visual and written, expands understanding of how artists in diaspora like Syed can assert new constructions of masculinity that critically engage with political, social and religious identities.