Raafat Ishak

"A formal request to immigrate was sent to 194 governments, 97 of whom provided a response, varying from congratulatory notes to outright suspicious interrogations of motive. What was evident, was that inherent laws and regulations, particular to each state, were in fact a conglomeration of sameness: race, language and religion, as well as economic and professional qualifications were key criteria. Unsurprisingly, 97 states chose not to respond at all.

Responses to an immigration request from one hundred and ninety four governments (2006–09) constitutes 194 painted panels, depicting the faded flag of each state superimposed with a summary of each response, or no response, in stylised and phonetic Arabic text. What on the surface seems like an unprecedented opportunity to reclaim the world by self and citizen is obstructed by an inherent lack of freedom, in particular the freedom to cross borders and migrate from one distinct place to another. This work constitutes a polemic veneration towards otherness whilst engaging in a reconsideration of self and citizen as a contrivance of nation states mired in economic, social, political and historical relevance."

1967 born in Cairo, Egypt and lives in Melbourne, Australia. 

Raafat Ishak works across painting, installation and site-specific drawing, and his practice is informed by architecture and his Arabic cultural heritage. Using a formal but understated graphic language, where distinctive lines enclose curved, square or rectangular shapes that have been slowly built up in pastel shades on unprimed MDF, Raafat seamlessly mixes the personal with the political in a way that highlights the circularity and interdependency of these relationships. Underscored by a utopian, romantic tendency, his work is subtle, contemplative and alive to the nuances of cross-cultural dialogue and transit.

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. Raafat was the recipient of the Australia Council Paris studio in 2014, and is a founding member of Ocular Lab Inc.

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