Last week, before a meeting with an academic at the University of Nottingham, I got the chance to see the exhibition ‘MEMES’ by Kashif Nadim Chaudry, an artist who I worked with and included as part of the group exhibition \”home\” I curated at the Airspace Gallery in 2010. His new works were on display at the university’s Djanogly Art Gallery as part of Lakeside Arts Centre and were produced during his residency at the centre during 2010 and 2011. I can remember him talking about this opportunity back then…and his excitement. He also recently had a solo exhibition ‘Even the Animals’ at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham. The show takes its title from the term coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of ‘The Selfish Gene’ (1976), to describe ‘a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation’, comparable to a gene, capable of spreading and perpetuating cultural ideas and values.
In this new series of sculptural investigations that extend through the three spaces of the gallery, Chaudry further explores the notion of inherited value systems and of ‘traditional’ acts of ritual and ceremony from the perspective of his Pakistani and Muslim heritage, and more specifically from his marginalised identity as a British-born gay man. ‘With a family background in tailoring and a formal art training in Textiles, his sculptural installation makes lavish use of fabric and stitch, drawing inspiration from the disparate worlds of Elizabethan costume, Islamic and Gothic architecture, and the Catholic Monstrance. Decoration and over-embellishment as an expression of power and intimidation lie at the heart of their aesthetic vocabularies. Recognising the potential also within authority for vicious acts of terror and repression, in this new work Chaudry pursues his interest in the idea of opulence and excess spilling over into tumour and disease, of impotent acts and contradictory spaces.’
Chaudry‘s work has gained a sudden sense of confidence and maturity since I worked with him in early 2010. The works stand strong, with a profound articulation of religious monumentalism, architecturally grounded as altar-like statues, making reference to preservation and the parody of eternal life and death…the embellishments of experience cut through the use of plush, rich materials that have a visceral quality, with a clear physical and visual presentation of craft. Every single part of the works are made and constructed by Chaudry, from preserving the chicken heads to building the scaffolding. This engagement with his materials comes through to the viewer, where you appreciate his personal relationship to his practice and attention to detail. He is definitely a UK artist to watch over the coming years and I do hope to have the opportunity to work with him again. ‘MEMES’ is on display until the 27th August 2012.