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Khadim Ali, Rustam at Green Cardamom

LONDON.- Green Cardamom gallery will present Khadim Ali, Rustam, on view 16 November - 16 December 2007. A preoccupation with myth, poetry, personal and collective memory and cultural identity runs throughout Rustam, the first UK solo exhibition for Afghanistan born artist Khadim Ali and Green Cardamom’s inaugural exhibition in their new premises at 5a Porchester Place.

Referencing the ancient Persian epic The Shahnameh, Khadim Ali’s recent work explores the practice of storytelling and how cultural icons can be commandeered and subverted to serve multiple ends in contemporary life and politics. The works stem from an encounter Khadim Ali had with a young boy in Bamiyan; named Rustam, the child was unaware of his namesake (a mythological character from The Shahnameh) and his only association with his name was that of Rustam-e-Parzand (or winged Rustum), a name used by the Taliban to enforce an image of omnipresent vigilance.

The first series of paintings in this exhibition depict warrior-like figures in imperial poses, sometimes winged, always fierce and bearded. While they seem lifted from ancient manuscript illustrations of demons, they are polymorphic beings of the artists’ invention. Posturing as kings, armed with the accoutrements of mythical heroes, the figures remain ogres, and are described by the artist as a deliberate rendering of the Taliban. The creation of heroes has long been part of the enterprise of war, and Khadim views these constructs through the lens of recent Afghan and international history.

Khadim Ali’s ongoing Absent Kitchen project provides a starting point for the second series of works to be exhibited. For this body of work the artist uses a workshop setting to tell children stories he has heard from their Afghani contemporaries. The children’s images, drawn in response to the dialogue are assembled in his miniatures, layering the different narratives and creating a visual communication between the children across continents.

In London Khadim Ali will further develop the Absent Kitchen series through a series of workshops to be held with children from London schools. Visitors to the exhibition will then see him working on his paintings (that now include the local response) in the gallery space. The completed works will be shown before the exhibition closes in December.

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