Withdrawal Courtesies is a suite of ten mixed media artworks by Melbourne artist Raafat Ishak. This body of work incorporates printing, drawing and painting on paper, tracing paper, masking tape and an Australian census form. These materials comprise the last layer of what are essentially preliminary drawings for future paintings, sculptures and installations. As working drawings, they contain several repeated elements that have informed Ishak’s painting practice over the last thirty years, with the inclusion of three new themes: the Royal Australian Air Force coat of arms; Australian manufactured warplanes from the middle of the twentieth century; and specifically neo-classical buildings constructed in Greece from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.
This current body of work continues an ongoing interest in how images of seemingly disparate origins and historical lineage begin to migrate and infiltrate via the contemporary conundrum of information speed and saturation. At its core, this series suggests that randomness is a presupposed condition that requires a slow and considered approach to reveal the nuances and intricacies of images and their inherent relationships and connections. For example, Neoclassicism was not classical or original, and the Australian war industry was reactionary and economically driven. However, both were outcomes of an enduring form of appropriation disguised historically as progress.
Ishak speculates on history as a receptacle of infinite propositions, capable of revealing and simultaneously disguising the logical nature of images and their possible content. Drawing becomes, in this instance, the distance created between revelations and statements. It is all at once bureaucratic, imaginary, uncertain, disillusioned and mistaken. Yet, drawing carries with it threads of possibility and potential for deliberating its propositional and speculative outcomes.
Born Cairo in 1967 and arriving in Melbourne in 1982, Ishak’s recent solo exhibitions include: Chicken River, Gertrude Contemporary, 2018; 1977, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne; Bushrangers, Platform Hero Billboard, Melbourne, 2016; Apnea, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; Proposition for a banner march and a black cube hot air balloon (in collaboration with Tom Nicholson), Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria, 2012; and Raafat Ishak: Work in Progress, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 2010. Recent group exhibitions include: 100 Masterpieces of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art, The Barjeel Collection, Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2017; A decolonial geographic, Devonport Regional Gallery, Devonport, 2017; Painting, More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2016; The Other’s Other, Artspace, Sydney, 2012; Alienation, Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 2012; The Future of a Promise, Venice Biennale, 2011; NEW010, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2010; Cubism and Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2009; and The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. Ishak was the recipient of the Australia Council Paris studio in 2014, and is a founding member of Ocular Lab Inc.Artist’s profile