- APRIL 11 — 16 MAY, 2009
For years now, those American free-spirits seeking refuge from soul-destroying city life, wanting to get away from it all, in search of somewhere...somewhere real...somewhere to be alone, to be with nature...a rugged, ageless nature - untamed! - a true and authentic place...with rocks and pastures and rapids and forests that reach as far as the eye can see - somewhere real...a real America! - and the likes of Peter Fonda, Sam Peckinpah, Steve McQueen, Richard Ford, Norman Maclean, Richard Brautigan, they all endeavoured to find and to create that place in...Montana!
Shezad Dawood's MONTANA is something of a companion to the artist's recent film FEATURE. Using a cast that includes artists, jockeys, footballers and a mezzo soprano, Dawood created his own chaotic zombie Western that re-tells the story of The Battle of Little Big Horn. The paintings in MONTANA were made during the writing of the film, created as storyboards to inspire and inform the script. The assemblages are Dawood's recent deconstruction of FEATURE. An artist's practice is rarely one of clear-cut beginnings and ends; rather a speculative process of figuring out where one has been and where the work must next lead. The pieces presented in MONTANA neatly combine to offer a kind of making-of and director's commentary to FEATURE.
Dawood has said that "[the] perverse desire for authenticity, yet always in translation, is at the core of my work. Ideologies, cultures - I tend to see the artifice in all of it; they're all constructs in a way." It is fitting therefore that he should look to the Western as a platform for his ideas. It is the most durable of genres - one that has been updated and relocated, had other genres attached, been deconstructed and subverted, and one that has a peculiar strength for absorbing the stories, myths and characters of varied times and cultures, whilst always remaining the most American of genres.
The visual imagery of Westerns is utilised to its most overblown and ridiculous ends by Dawood. His paintings create a classic cast of characters - goodies and baddies - that are cliched to the last. The assemblages - with their arrows, skulls, crucifixes and coffin lids - offer unashamedly childish ingredients. It is this directness and humour that makes Dawood's exploration of his subjects most effective. Without an earnest or judgemental voice, he offers a serious study of how symbols of cultures and identity carry meaning - a meaning that often becomes warped or removed from its origins.