Abdullah M.I. Syed: How the world has shaped his art

Abdullah M.I. Syed: How the world has shaped his art

Featured photo credit: Document Photography
Abdullah M.I. Syed headshot photo credit (below): Diego Flores

Abdullah MI SyedAs part of Campbelltown Arts Centre’s latest exhibition OK Democracy, We Need to Talk, Australian-Pakistani artist Abdullah M.I. Syed explores political uniforms, slogans and currency in his series called Capital Couture.

Featuring two of his most recently commissioned works, Capital Couture showcases some garments made from real currencies, while others are styled with commonly used political slogans such as ‘fair dinkum’.

Abdullah credits much of his inspiration for these works to his upbringing, as his family often moved between Pakistan, where he was born, and Saudi Arabia, where his father worked.

“Travelling was part of me since the beginning and the ideas of using foreign currency was part of our household,” he said.

None of our family members ever worked in Pakistan so we’d always have foreign income and I would always see my mother dealing with foreign currencies, and as a result, that was my introduction to the world.

Considering himself a global citizen, Abdullah has lived, studied and worked across Australia, the United States and Pakistan over more recent years, giving him a diverse perspective of various democracies around the world.

His work for the exhibition reflects this worldly view, with each of the pieces he has made representing various democratic countries, including Pakistan, Australia, and the USA.

“I started looking at fashion as a subversive act where it plays with the lines that divide gender, race, and ethnicity,” he explained.

“It also suggests one’s personality, attitudes and role within that context.

So, what I'm doing, for example, is that I'm using Pakistani money and I'm actually making the Sherwani with the notes, which is now the state dress that every politician has to wear.

Abdullah MI SyedPhoto credit: Abdullah M.I. Syed

Some of the pieces are also inspired by the iconic paper dresses that gained popularity for advertising in the United States in the 1960s, such as during President Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1968.

Abdullah also credits much of his art to his mother, who taught him many of skills he uses in his work today, including embroidery, decorating and teaching.

“One of the things that I always seek is my mother’s approval, I seek that more than anyone’s approval in the world,” he said.

“She wanted to be an artist but she actually never pursued that, so I actually later on collaborated with her, because she taught me a lot of things that now I’m using in my art practice.”

Abdullah MI SyedPhoto credit: Document Photography

To learn more about Abdullah and his work, visit his website HERE.

Plus, check out Ok Democracy, We Need to Talk at Campbelltown Arts Centre until July 31, 2019. More details available on their website HERE.

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]