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reviews SHEzad dawood
shezAd dAwood:
if i should fAll from
grAce with god
par adiSE row, London
23 novEm bEr – 20 January
If I Should Fall from
Grace with God, 2007
(installation view).
© the artist. Courtesy
paradise row, London
Ninety-nine neon names of God trapped in a thistly bristle of tumbleweed On the black walls a more overt statement about this relationship
bleed a sepulchral light into the dark and cloying night of the gallery. Four is made by a salon- type hanging of small paintings whose dark skeins of
stand in here for the full quota; glacier-mint blue, Lucozade orange, fresh- domestic gloss paint form the backdrop to sinister vignettes of a Western
mint green and pomegranate pink, their lurid but somehow Christmassy variety. Three cowboys riding towards a severed head in the sand, a gun-
glare illuminating the space in a close-encounter glow which transforms toting black Civil War soldier and a rabid deer’s head, eyes streaming dripped
the blacked-out gallery into a cross between a stage set and a dark Santa’s paint, are all rendered in the tenebrous tones of a Goya or Böklin. The small
grotto. It is claimed the Koran contains the multiple monikers of the maker; paintings are lit by pound-shop versions of the sort of eighteenth-century
‘The Most Merciful’, ‘The Most Merciful in Actions’, ‘The All Glorious’, ‘The brass table-lamp that one might have found in the sheriff’s office in the
Grateful’, ‘The Fashioner of Forms’; it has become a sacred chant, a spiritual O.K. Corral, casting the gallery in an uncanny and sinister light, reinforcing
enhancer for the faithful. But here, in Shezad Dawood’s new installation, it is a dark evocation of the fractured and enduringly violent relationship of the
trapped within the timeless trope of the Western: the humble tumbleweed West to the Other.
eternally rolling across the dusty main drag at high noon, sweeping the On a lighter note, in the smaller, brightly lit side-gallery, Dawood has
street clean before the final shootout. hung carefully framed 1920s Lyonnais Bianchini-Férier textile designs into
Although the apogee of the Western was in the 1950s, when the US which he has introduced several more of God’s names. The resonances
was at the peak of its Cold War paranoia and ‘red injuns’ made a serviceable here are less powerful than in the main room, and the reference to capital
substitute for faceless Communist hordes ‘living right here in our midst!’, and production perhaps a little too obtuse, but what does work is the
and although the form has largely been subverted by recent explorations of contrast and dislocation with the other space; capitalism can indeed be all
the genre (Brokeback Mountain, 2005, being a case in point), it is still welded bright and shiny on the outside, like these minimal and covetable designs,
into the unconscious of the West as an archetypal embodiment of Western but the hidden mechanisms which drive it and its history of exploitation and
world domination and colonialism. At a time when we are indeed witnessing domination do indeed form a very dark chamber of horrors. Richard Dyer
the ‘final shootout’ between the West and the modern-day embodiment
of the Red Indian – Islamic fundamentalists – there are indeed rich and
succulent conflations to be made between the two opposing camps.
Artreview 150
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