Australian Muslim Artists (2020)

Discover this year's exhibition of emerging and established Australian Muslim artists, exploring themes of identity, politics, spirituality, and the impact of COVID-19

By Islamic Museum of Australia

La Trobe University Art Prize 2020

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria) Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria) (2019) by Abdul-Rahman AbdullahIslamic Museum of Australia

Australian Muslim Artists (AMA) Exhibition and Art Prize

Curated by the Islamic Museum of Australia (IMA) and sponsored by La Trobe University, Australian Muslim Artists (AMA) is an annual shortlisted exhibition providing a valuable platform from which emerging and established artists across Australia can showcase their talents and exhibit their works. 

AMA 2020 ExhibitionIslamic Museum of Australia

AMA 2020 Introduction
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For the second year, IMA welcomes its collaboration with La Trobe University and acknowledges their generous support of the AMA Art Prize. This partnership is borne out of a shared commitment to strengthening cultural awareness and social inclusion through education, research and the arts.

This interdisciplinary exhibition features 18 Australian artists from diverse backgrounds who have crafted an impressive array of contemporary art using varied media including paint, print, calligraphy, neon light, wood carving, photography, installation and moving picture.

Each of the following works displayed reflect the artist’s original concepts, styles and techniques. With no binding theme, the participants express their views and distil their emotions through art. They explore themes of identity, politics, spirituality, and the impact of COVID-19. Each work presents a unique and thought-provoking visual interpretation from the artist’s perspective, impacting the viewer in a profound way.

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria) Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria) (2019) by Abdul-Rahman AbdullahIslamic Museum of Australia

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria), 2019
Winner: 2020 AMA Art Prize

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (b.1977) is a West Australian based multi-disciplinary artist whose sculptural practice explores the intersection of politics, cultural identity and the natural world.

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria)Islamic Museum of Australia

Since graduating from Curtin University in 2012, Abdullah has exhibited at leading galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria)Islamic Museum of Australia

While his own experiences as a Muslim Australian of mixed ethnicity provide a starting point, Abdullah foregrounds shared understandings of individual identity and new mythologies

Living and working in rural Western Australia, he provides a unique perspective across intersecting and often disparate communities.

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria)Islamic Museum of Australia

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria) - made of painted wood - is a reflection of his mother. Abdullah describes how her expertise in horticulture and ability to allow the natural world to thrive in her care is matched only by the love that surrounds her as the family matriarch.

Transplants (Euphorbia, Monstera, Sansevieria)Islamic Museum of Australia

Since arriving in Australia from Malaysia 50 years ago, she has made each house a home for her children and grandchildren. Abdullah owes it to his mum to keep his plants alive, to let his garden flourish and to love his children like she loves hers.

3 Disgraces after RubensIslamic Museum of Australia

Amber Hammad

3 Disgraces after Rubens, 2020

Amber Hammad is a Pakistani born, Sydney based visual artist, academic and researcher. She is currently a Post-Graduate Master of Fine Arts student, and recipient of the prestigious Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship at University of New South Wales, Sydney.

3 Disgraces after RubensIslamic Museum of Australia

Her works have been exhibited widely across the world at many galleries and museums such as Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Diocesano Museum of Milano, Italy and Apexart New York, United States. 

3 Disgraces after RubensIslamic Museum of Australia

Hammad's works addresses her identity within the framework of her race, religion, culture and gender, as she interrogates women’s attire and agency through her versatile art practice.

3 Disgraces after Rubens is an appropriation of Rubens’ painting, where the artist herself juxtaposes three nude female figures with three variations of modest contemporary Pakistani attire.

The artist is simultaneously veiling and unveiling the female body visually, while activating her agency of choosing to veil or not to veil her own body. 

Hammad describes that anxieties around women’s veiled and unveiled bodies have been present in almost all cultures and religions and are relative even today. 

From female nude figures in art history serving male hegemony and gaze, to our local context with Pauline Hanson’s Burqa stunt and the success of the burkini, all suggest this subject’s relativity.

HomageIslamic Museum of Australia

Ammar Yonis

Homage, 2019

Ammar Yonis is a first-generation Harari-Australian, based in Melbourne’s west. Apart from being an engineering student, he dedicates time exploring his creativity through mediums such as photography.

HomageIslamic Museum of Australia

Yonis believes art encourages discovery of the unknown and promotes understanding between people. His experiences with creative expression have supported a greater freedom from the pressures that come with a third culture upbringing.

HomageIslamic Museum of Australia

Homage attempts to capture the development of an invisible bond between friends in a suburban setting, within the context of Australian migration. The search for companionship is very personal, and for the artist, it often comes in the form of moments like these.

HomageIslamic Museum of Australia

In his photograph Homage, Yonis presents a combination of people and space who together radiate the feeling of family.

Harmony Harmony (2020) by Aya MouradIslamic Museum of Australia

Aya Murad

Harmony, 2020

Aya Mourad is a Lebanese artist based in Sydney, Australia. Her work is focused on Islamic pattern, drawing inspiration from her travels throughout West Asia and parts of Europe. 

HarmonyIslamic Museum of Australia

Murad works primarily with watercolours but enjoys experimenting with other mediums. She has had creative pursuits since childhood and has been particularly drawn to Islamic art due to its unique combination of characteristics: spiritual evocation, symbolic value, decorative beauty, seamless harmony, symmetry and infinite repetitiveness. 

HarmonyIslamic Museum of Australia

Murad aims to convey these attributes through her work and hopes to evoke feelings of joy and wonderment for its viewers.

HarmonyIslamic Museum of Australia

The watercolour Harmony portrays a paradox of intricacy and simplicity that permeates space with seamless harmony. From afar, the detailed vegetal elements within each pod create a hypnotising view that draws the gaze inward, outward and in rotation, exuding harmony in each direction.

It contains 928 pods (including a subtle skeleton of purple pods adding an intertwining layer of depth) and an additional 32 rhomboidal shapes in the centre. 

This piece is a manipulation of a pattern that partially adorns the ceiling of Iwan-e-Sa’at at Imam Reza Shrine, Mashhad, Iran. The geometric construction follows the analysis of Adam Williamson. 

Lockdown_not_lockup (2020) by Ayman KaakeIslamic Museum of Australia

Ayman Kaake

Lockdown_Not_Lockup, 2020

Born in Tripoli, Lebanon, Ayman Kaake travelled to Australia in 2011 in pursuit of studying visual arts. A telecommunications engineer and cinematography graduate, he left behind his parents and eleven siblings as he set off on his artistic journey.

In 2014, his passion for cinema and photography eventually developed into a body of digital art works, creating images that delve into the dreamlike world of personal experiences and emotional turmoil. 

Although dealing with moving and serious emotions, Kaake’s works are almost hopeful, and he believes that “sometimes imagination is better than reality”. 

In Lockdown_Not_Lockup, Kaake tries – as a male artist – to shed light on the blackout that hides domestic violence around the world and especially violence against women in Arab countries and shows how important it is that men speak up about this issue.

The image (made from inkjet print on cotton rag) is framed in baroque mirror style as a reflection of the society and the duration of this issue that women have dealt with.

Ghazaliyat Ghazaliyat (2020) by Farnaz DadfarIslamic Museum of Australia

Farnaz Dadfar

Ghazaliyat, 2020

Farnaz Dadfar is an Iranian-born Australian artist, based in Melbourne. She has shown her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Iran, Australia and Indonesia since 2004.

GhazaliyatIslamic Museum of Australia

Beside exhibiting in many galleries and venues, Dadfar was selected as one of the finalists for the Linden Art Prize 2019, Keith and Elisabeth Murdoch Travelling Fellowship, and she has been the recipient of a number of awards.

GhazaliyatIslamic Museum of Australia

Dadfar’s practice offers a small window into an alternative realm of spiritual and philosophical experience by recuperating certain characteristics of Persian Sufi poetry and Farsi literature as artistic material.

GhazaliyatIslamic Museum of Australia

Ghazaliyat experientially re-presents certain aspects of Islamic mysticism within the context of contemporary post-conceptual art. 

GhazaliyatIslamic Museum of Australia

By activating meanings and nonsense created through fragmented linguistic diasporas using text selected poems the Dīvāni Shamsi Tabrīz by Jalāl ad-Dîn Rūmī as a means of incarnating otherness, deterritorialisation and displacement, the project imagines utopic alternatives to the increasingly brutal and dystopic realities of twenty-first existence.

DevotionIslamic Museum of Australia

Fatima Killeen (creator), Yasmine Killeen (photographer)

Devotion, 2020

Fatima Killeen defines herself as a painter and a printmaker. She uses motifs inspired from her Islamic heritage to speak about the injustices endured by people living in places of conflict. 

DevotionIslamic Museum of Australia

In the last two decades, her works have specifically aimed at expressing her concern for the humanitarian disregard of those living in occupied lands and regions of struggle.

DevotionIslamic Museum of Australia

Devotion houses a journey of commitment and devotion. Kileen still recalls waking at dawn to witness the silhouettes of her mother’s daily dawn prostrations. It was ambiguous whether she was praying or washing clothes.

The repeated movement of washing polishes the surfaces of the boards, creating niches for memories that the artist still admires about her mother’s dedication. Faith is intrinsic to life, an oath to care and honour. 

DevotionIslamic Museum of Australia

Killeen describes that both of her mother’s religious devotion and family duties have become interwoven and a personal promise. The washing of clothes became a prayer before the prayer.

Order over Chaos (2020) by Jennifer Birrell-LatachiIslamic Museum of Australia

Jennifer Birrell-Latachi

Order Over Chaos, 2020

Jennifer Birrell-Latachi’s artistic works often deal with the cross-cultural identity struggle of being an Australian and raising a bi-racial family. She’s currently working towards her Master’s degree in Arts and Cultural Management.

Order over Chaos (2020) by Jennifer Birrell-LatachiIslamic Museum of Australia

Her work within Expanded Field Painting is inspired by classical Islamic artistic notions of colour, light, symmetry and line as a metaphorical carriage to investigate the socio-political constructs that divide cultures.

Order over Chaos (2020) by Jennifer Birrell-LatachiIslamic Museum of Australia

Order over Chaos is a ‘Living Painting’ under the Painting in the Expanded Field genre. Creating chaos through painting over 36 meters on canvas, the artist then used photographic methods to select the collisions of colours and form in the paint, representing moments of beauty in the clash of cultures between modern abstract expressionism and traditional Islamic art. Orchestrating order represented by symmetry, the works were then hand animated, creating a living painting. 

Order over Chaos (2020) by Jennifer Birrell-LatachiIslamic Museum of Australia

The works are designed to be exhibited in two display screens but due to the COVID-19 lock down, the original work was edited to be played online. Watch the full video here.

The Prophet (2020) by Khaled SabsabiIslamic Museum of Australia

Khaled Sabsabi

The Prophet, 2020

Born in 1965 in Tripoli, Khaled Sabsabi left Lebanon with his family, migrating to Australia in 1978 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Sabsabi completed his Master of Arts from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and started his creative practice in the late 1980’s, both as a performer and as a youth worker. 

In his work, he used his knowledge and passion for the arts to help young people coming from Arabic, Aboriginal and Pacific Islander backgrounds. From these earliest endeavours, Sabsabi’s work showed a strong interest in social justice, as he aimed at empowering marginalised individuals to counteract racism and Islamophobia.

Sabsabi describes his work, The Prophet, as a contemporary artistic interpretation inspired by small Islamic paper paintings that are dated back over millennia.

The craft more commonly known as miniatures was used in manuscripts to tell sacred stories relating to the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These works revisit and affirm the importance of holding and sharing spiritual stories in this time and space.

Where Green meets Blue Where Green meets Blue (2020) by Laila TabassumIslamic Museum of Australia

Laila Tabassum

Where Green Meets Blue, 2020

Although Laila Tabassum’s main profession is in architecture, she has been exploring art since childhood. Experimenting with a variety of media – such as oil colour, acrylic, pencil sketch, oil pastel. 

Where Green meets BlueIslamic Museum of Australia

Where Green meets Blue is an acrylic painting inspired by the Australian landscape.

Where Green meets BlueIslamic Museum of Australia

Tabassum notes, As quarantine stretched from days to weeks, I realised how beautiful the delicate nature around us is now that I could no longer go visit it as I wished. Through this piece, I rediscovered the now thriving nature around us.”

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless)Islamic Museum of Australia

Michael Phillips

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless), 2020

Michael Phillips established a studio in Metro Arts involving set and print design for TN! Theatre Company, La Boite Theatre and the Queensland Performing Arts. Since his return from London (1987-90), Michael has been working in publication design (books and catalogues), illustration and design (fashion) and screen printing (textiles and printed matter). 

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless)Islamic Museum of Australia

He has over 35 exhibitions solo and group, over the past 35 years which included a diverse range of works such as paintings, prints, small sculptures and artist books. Michael is completing a Master’s degree at Queensland College of Art (2020) in printmaking.

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless)Islamic Museum of Australia

Untitled is constructed from ‘unpicked’ (sturdy) brown paper shopping bags, re-glued and re-configured along their folds and seams. One side lightly primed and over-painted – the geometry of the painted work informed by the structure of the re-joined bags.

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless)Islamic Museum of Australia

The act of unpicking, flattening, and re-joining produce a soft undulated surface, almost skin-like. When paint is thinly applied the surface speaks through the paint. A simple structure of containment of the everyday, opened, laid flat.

Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless) Untitled (Vanished Words, Newtown, for Shirley and Colless) (2020) by Michael PhillipsIslamic Museum of Australia

Phillips notes, "Shirley and Colless lived in a small terrace house in Newtown, Sydney. Their lives resonated with a cultural richness that was evident in their considered yet eclectic collection of books, artworks, textiles, and furniture that inhabited most walls and surfaces."

"With age and ill-health forcing them from the house, the language of the interiors, layered, embedded, read and re-read over time, have disappeared. The work is a homage to this vanishing and everyday loss that occurs across our society. It is also a note of my deep affection I have for them both, who are now deceased."

Sense of place: Lygon St – Melbourne Sense of place: Lygon St – Melbourne (2019) by Mohamed AbumeisIslamic Museum of Australia

Mohamed Abumeis

Sense of Place: Lygon St – Melbourne, 2019
 
Abumeis is a Libyan-Australian artist born in Tripoli-Libya and has been based in Melbourne, Australia since 2009. He has been practicing art and exhibiting artworks since 1990. He has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions.

Sense of place: Lygon St – MelbourneIslamic Museum of Australia

Abumeis has worked as assistant Lecturer, Faculty of Fine Arts, Tripoli University, Libya and as an Art teacher & Tutor. He has recently completed his Doctor of Art from RMIT University in 2014.

Sense of place: Lygon St – MelbourneIslamic Museum of Australia

Sense of place: Lygon St – Melbourne evokes the spirit and vital rhythm of a place and highlights the phenomenon of diversity. It visualises the most sophisticated and complex value of the multi-layered colours of Australian society and articulates clues to the sense of place, seeking to enhance the roles and value of Melbourne as a transnational city.

Sense of place: Lygon St – MelbourneIslamic Museum of Australia

Technically, the adoption of a purely multicolour pictorial metaphorically highlights the sense of place and the city, sub- themes of diversity / multiculturalism, and ambiguously employs as a language and method various codes, linguistic models, and a narrative that invites a performative reading.

Happy Death-Birthday Dear REDACTED (2020) by Mohsen MeysamiIslamic Museum of Australia

Mohsen Meysami

Happy Death-Birthday Dear REDACTED, 2020

Mohsen Meysami is a multidisciplinary artist based in Melbourne Australia. Meysami is interested in utilising a variety of mediums and techniques to communicate complex political ideas. His works have been selected as a finalist in a number of awards including the Arte Laguna Venice 2018, Fisher’s Ghost Art Award 2018, Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award, and Incinerator Art Award. In 2017, he won the Footscray Art Prize 2017 Tertiary Award.

Happy Death-Birthday Dear REDACTED illustrates one of the incidents published in August 2016 by The Guardian as part of 'The Nauru Files', leaked incident reports written by staff in Australia’s detention centre on Nauru between 2013 and 2015:

'Save the Children Australia caseworker [REDACTED] was walking through the volleyball area when he was stopped by [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] stated to caseworker that it is her birthday on Friday. She then stated, "I want to die on my birthday". Caseworker asked why and she replied, “it is not worth living here anymore”.'

Papery PeaceIslamic Museum of Australia

Niloufar Lovegrove

Papery Peace, 2020

Originally from Iran, Niloufar is a Central Queensland artist, practising in traditional printmaking and creating public murals. Her work explores new possibilities of connecting two different worlds by using her mythical Persian stories of past and adjusting them to her current environment as a way of connecting spaces, sharing stories and building curiosity. 

“In my practice I like to create a subtle, clear and calm land enabling the viewer to enter the unknown safely and depart with a positive affirmation as I believe there is already more than enough brutality in the world.”

Papery PeaceIslamic Museum of Australia

Papery Peace is a mandatory dress code for women in Iran in line with the Islamic rules. This work celebrates the ancient history of Iran by the choice of attire style yet welcoming Islamic design element patterns. It symbolises a free land where people welcome a new religion knowing there is no obligation in accepting it. In such a place people can exchange and share ideas, creativity, elements of imagination peacefully.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

Sam Dabboussy

Shelter, 2020

Sam Dabboussy completed a Fine Arts Degree at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and also holds a Bachelor of Teaching, Secondary School Visual Arts, from the University of Sydney.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

Besides his full time job as a commercial builder, he spends his evening in landscape painting, both natural and urban. He has been participating in several art prizes over the years including most recently the Gallipoli Art Prize 2020 where he was a Finalist.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

In his words: Dabboussy is passionate about painting on large canvases using oils, but is also drawn to the delicate art of painting with water colours.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

Shelter is an imaginary illustration of tranquillity amongst chaos that the artist experienced during his last visit to Tripoli, Lebanon in 2019 and after leaving his parent’s hometown there in 1976.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

As he arrived after the revolution, it took him two days to finally reach Tripoli, with protesters flooding the roads and halting traffic. Unable to leave Tripoli he fled to the coastal road.

ShelterIslamic Museum of Australia

This abandoned seaside resort at the forefront gave shelter to many Syrian families, and the city of Tripoli on the horizon housed thousands more Syrian refugees. A safe haven in a climate of unrest.

The Need to MatterIslamic Museum of Australia

Samia Khan

The Need to Matter, 2020

Samia Khan’s artwork is inspired by the multiple cultures she has been immersed in. The art she makes serves to inspire, motivate and be a reminder of spiritual growth and self-actualisation.

The Need to MatterIslamic Museum of Australia

Khan loves incorporating textual elements across all of her paintings.  She specialises in abstracts with modern English and Arabic calligraphy to create inspirational art.

The Need to MatterIslamic Museum of Australia

The Need to Matter is based on an Urdu verse by the poet Allama Iqbal about a grain of sand wanting to expand, but its reality is such that the whole desert is contained within a single grain.

The Need to MatterIslamic Museum of Australia

The sides of the painting have the verse in Urdu handwriting, meticulously written with glue and copper leaf and the centre has Arabic calligraphy in the Thuluth script surrounded by gold leaf texture.

Conversation with the Moonah TreeIslamic Museum of Australia

Zahidah Zeytoun Millie

Conversation with the Moonah Tree, 2020

Zahidah holds a Master of Visual Arts from Monash University (2011) and is currently a PhD student at Deakin University. She believes art has a catalysing role towards environmental protection and has the capacity to influence laws and individual attitudes.

Conversation with the Moonah TreeIslamic Museum of Australia

She aims to contribute to the protection of her own homeland in Syria by raising awareness of the beauty and importance of the mangroves and wetlands.

Conversation with the Moonah TreeIslamic Museum of Australia

Conversation with the Moonah Tree describes the feelings and challenges of the artist who moved to live in Australia. A tree that grew its roots in Syria, Lebanon, and the Emirates until mid June 2017 then moved to live in Australia and has has to adapt with the new land. A challenge to the land to accept the strange tree and to the tree to grow in a new land, both needing time. 

Conversation with the Moonah TreeIslamic Museum of Australia

This painting shows the self, represented in a little figure wearing a Syrian brocade dress trying to talk with the Australian land represented in an old native tree.

Keep exploring... take a virtual tour inside the museum or explore more works from Australian Muslim artists in this exhibition about Ramadan.

Credits: Story

Islamic Museum of Australia, La Trobe University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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