Brothers turn experience into art

Lyn Diciero
Artists Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and his brother Abdul Abdullah, with works at their WA Focus exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

WA brothers Abdul-Rahman and Abdul Abdullah are the first to go under the spotlight in a renewed focus on leading local artists by the Art Gallery of WA.

Their exhibition to start the WA Focus series gives an insight into their different experiences of growing up in Australia either side of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, nine years older than his 29-year-old brother, grew up before 9/11 as a Muslim at ease in multicultural Australia.

His resin sheep carcass hanging from the gallery ceiling recalls the ritual of his father slaughtering his own meat when halal meat was not available in Perth.

By contrast, Abdul Abdullah takes a more abrasive approach from his formative years. "Although my mother says it's different now, I remember someone once tore off her scarf in the street," he said. "It has a big effect on you as a child."

The brothers have set a punishing exhibition pace in their short, meteoric careers, with appreciative audiences hot on their heels.

"You've got to work hard at pursuing your goals," Abdul, an Archibald Prize finalist and winner of the 2011 Blake Prize for Human Justice, said.

Abdul-Rahman, a late starter and just three years out of art school, has exhibited at the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne and features in the Here&Now15 exhibition of experimental sculpture opening tomorrow at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at the University of WA.

The brothers also are slated for inclusion in the mid-year PICA Salon exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.

The WA Focus exhibition is a response to calls for the Art Gallery of WA to do more to promote local artists.

The brothers' works will be on display until July 27 and will be followed by artworks by Helen Smith, the Proximity Festival and photography by Graham Miller.

"The Abdullah brothers' exhibition is a great start to celebrate and share the talents of WA artists," gallery director Stefano Carboni said.