Leviathan On Sunspots and Whales
Barakat Contemporary is proud to announce the solo exhibition Leviathan: On Sunspots and Whales by Shezad Dawood, with newly commissioned works including the new film Leviathan Cycle, Episode 4: Jamila, the large textile painting Island inspired by Korean mythology, and the new polychromatic sculpture On Becoming Virtual Octopi designed in response to and in conversation with Barakat Gallery’s antiquity collection. The exhibition at Barakat Contemporary is the third iteration of an ambitious episodic project that will tour to institutions around the world through 2021.
Barakat Contemporary will hold the solo exhibition Leviathan: On Sunspots and Whales by British artist Shezad Dawood during September 1 (Sat.)-November 4 (Sun.), 2018.
“Leviathan” is an ambitious art project that examines urgent issues of the contemporary era. Through linkages with experts from different fields, it explores the connections among various contemporary issues that remain insoluble or not fully understood including climate change, marine welfare, democracy, migration, and mental health. Consisting of ten episodic narratives and corresponding films, the project incorporates sculptures, paintings, a dedicated website, research publications and a public programme . The Barakat Contemporary exhibition is the third iteration of a world tour scheduled through 2021. With the contents subject to expansion as social incidents and issues arise, it is impossible to predict what transformations and developments the project will undergo.
Leviathan: On Sunspots and Whales will premiere the presentation of the fourth episode of the ten-part episodic fictional narrative Leviathan Cycle . The films take place in an imaginary future where just a few survivors remain on Earth after some unexplained cataclysm in the solar system. Each episode is titled after one of the survivors and presented from the perspective of an individual narrator representing a different nationality, ethnicity, gender, and culture. The textile paintings, presented as a series of hangings across the two gallery spaces, were developed in dialogue with the renowned textile manufacturer Fortuny and incorporate several of their handmade fabrics. Artifacts and objects lost by migrants during sea crossing provide visual references for the textile works.
The exhibition will also feature a new sculpture inspired by an ancient statue in the Barakat Gallery collection and a new painting inspired by the Korean folktale of “Yeono and Seo.” A Hellenistic piece in the Barakat collection representing a male torso is an excellent example of the contrapposto stance in sculptures from the era, with coral reef remnants on the verdigris on the surface indicating that it laid submerged in the sea for a considerable time. Inspired by that sculpture, Shezad Dawood has created On Becoming Virtual Octopi, a male torso with an octopus head. Thus crossbred with an octopus, an organism with such advanced intelligence and senses that it has even been suspected of having an outer space origin, the form of this work envisions an evolved creature with entirely new senses.
“Yeono and Seo” is a rare record of a myth from ancient Korea about the sun, moon, and stars. A fisherman in the kingdom of Silla (57 BC-935 AD), Yeono is taken to Japan on a whale-like rock. Pining for her husband, Seo finds Yeono’s shoes on the same rock, which likewise takes her to Japan. Thus reunited, the couple becomes the king and queen of their adoptive country. Following the couple’s departure, however, both the sun and the moon turn pitch black in Silla. In order to restore light to these celestial bodies, sacrificial ceremonies are held, with silk woven by Seo as the offering. Focusing on the motif of shoes as an example of lost personal items previously belonging to migrants and reinterpreting the original tale, Shezad Dawood transforms it into the textile painting Island showing a surreal sunset in the Azores.
“Sunspots and Whales”, the exhibition subtitle, conjures up the image of a black whale meeting the rising sun over a vast ocean in a point on the horizon. It both symbolizes and links seemingly unrelated things, ranging from the distant sun in outer space to the abyss of the sea, from the imaginary monsters of myths to dangers that lurk yet remain unseen. It shows how many contemporary issues that seem independent of one another—the migrations of humans, plants, animals, and microbes; changes in the ecosystem; climate change; and natural disasters—are, in fact, linked in a single whole. Juxtaposing various images and stories with the knowledge of experts, the artist has developed his project like one vast network.
Shezad Dawood’s “Leviathan: Sunspots and Whales” exhibition at Barakat Contemporary has undergone its own process of transformation through crossbreeding with Korean mythology and ancient art from the Barakat collection. We anticipate witnessing how the project will transform and expand as it encounters diverse experts and audiences in South Korea—an environment with a social backdrop and a culture differing from those of Europe, where the project first began.