Raafat Ishak’s paintings of intricate, interlocking compositions, push and pull notions of nationhood, home and cultural identity. Since the late 1980’s Ishak has built a solid reputation for his creation of meticulous paintings, sculptural works and large scale installations. His personal symbolism, which draws upon an extensive archive of imagery, is masterfully layered into his complex paintings, presenting intriguing, elusive works.
Congratulatory Notes on Ubiquity and Debacle is a collection of nine oil paintings on canvas that are positioned precariously between a rigorous speculation on abstraction as driven by cubist investigations in image making, and ornamentation. Set against a number of architectural motifs, including an abandoned coal mine, a staircase and a Ferris wheel, the Notes are predominantly derived from paintings and drawings of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and pictorial representations and instructions of organic fruit, vegetable and flower growing in Victoria.
Ishak’s Notes foil and contrast his long standing involvement with artists run initiatives, collaborations and site specific projects. The incorporation of local plants and foliage marks the contentious territory of community and cooperation. These bouquets of vivid colour appear unexpectedly amongst the sharp crevices and corners of a rigid system of architectural logic.
In 2009, Raafat Ishak participated in Cubism and Australian Art at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, and The sixth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. A solo exhibition of his work, Raafat Ishak: Work in Progress #6, was held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne, 2010, and also that year Ishak participated in the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s New 010. Ishak was a founding member of the collective Ocular Lab, in Brunswick, and in recent years has been curated into significant exhibitions such as the inaugural TarraWarra Biennial, 2006 and “Fieldwork”, the inaugural exhibition at the NGV:A, Federation Square. He has also realised permanent and temporal public commissions at SBS Radio, Melbourne, and Deloitte, Melbourne, and for the City of Melbourne Public Laneways Commission. Ishak is currently participating in The Future of a Promise, at the 54th Venice Biennale and has been invited to exhibit in Safar/Voyage at the MOA, Vancouver in 2013, curated by Fereshteh Daftari (formerly curator, MoMA, New York, currently freelance specialising in Middle Eastern Art).Artist’s profile