Barakat Contemporary is proud to announce the solo exhibition Leviathan: On Sunspots and
Whales by Shezad Dawood, with newly commissioned works including the new film Leviathan
Cycle, Episode 4: Jamila, the large textile painting Island inspired by Korean mythology, and
the new polychromatic sculpture On Becoming Virtual Octopi designed in response to and in
conversation with Barakat Gallery’s antiquity collection. The exhibition at Barakat
Contemporary is the third iteration of an ambitious episodic project that will tour to
institutions around the world through 2021.
Barakat Contemporary will hold the solo exhibition Leviathan: On Sunspots and Whales by British
artist Shezad Dawood during September 1 (Sat.)-November 4 (Sun.), 2018.
“Leviathan” is an ambitious art project that examines urgent issues of the contemporary era.
Through linkages with experts from different fields, it explores the connections among various
contemporary issues that remain insoluble or not fully understood including climate change, marine
welfare, democracy, migration, and mental health. Consisting of ten episodic narratives and
corresponding films, the project incorporates sculptures, paintings, a dedicated website, research
publications and a public programme . The Barakat Contemporary exhibition is the third iteration of
a world tour scheduled through 2021. With the contents subject to expansion as social incidents and
issues arise, it is impossible to predict what transformations and developments the project will
Leviathan: On Sunspots and Whales will premiere the presentation of the fourth episode of the ten-
part episodic fictional narrative Leviathan Cycle . The filmstake place in an imaginary future
where just a few survivors remain on Earth after some unexplained cataclysm in the solar system.
Each episode is titled after one of the survivors and presented from the perspective of an individual
narrator representing a different nationality, ethnicity, gender, and culture. The textile paintings,
presented as a series of hangings across the two gallery spaces, were developed in dialogue with the
renowned textile manufacturer Fortuny and incorporate several of their handmade fabrics. Artifacts
and objects lost by migrants during sea crossing provide visual references for the textile works.
The exhibition will also feature a new sculpture inspired by an ancient statue in the Barakat Gallery
collection and a new painting inspired by the Korean folktale of “Yeono and Seo.” A Hellenistic
piece in the Barakat collection representing a male torso is an excellent example of the contrapposto
stance in sculptures from the era, with coral reef remnants on the verdigris on the surface indicating
that it laid submerged in the sea for a considerable time. Inspired by that sculpture, Shezad Dawood
has created On Becoming Virtual Octopi, a male torso with an octopus head. Thus crossbred with
an octopus, an organism with such advanced intelligence and senses that it has even been suspected
of having an outer space origin, the form of this work envisions an evolved creature with entirely
“Yeono and Seo” is a rare record of a myth from ancient Korea about the sun, moon, and stars. A
fisherman in the kingdom of Silla (57 BC-935 AD), Yeono is taken to Japan on a whale-like rock.
Pining for her husband, Seo finds Yeono’s shoes on the same rock, which likewise takes her to
Japan. Thus reunited, the couple becomes the king and queen of their adoptive country. Following
the couple’s departure, however, both the sun and the moon turn pitch black in Silla. In order to
restore light to these celestial bodies, sacrificial ceremonies are held, with silk woven by Seo as the
offering. Focusing on the motif of shoes as an example of lost personal items previously belonging
to migrants and reinterpreting the original tale, Shezad Dawood transforms it into the textile
painting Island showing a surreal sunset in the Azores.
“Sunspots and Whales”, the exhibition subtitle, conjures up the image of a black whale meeting the
rising sun over a vast ocean in a point on the horizon. It both symbolizes and links seemingly
unrelated things, ranging from the distant sun in outer space to the abyss of the sea, from the
imaginary monsters of myths to dangers that lurk yet remain unseen. It shows how many
contemporary issues that seem independent of one another—the migrations of humans, plants,
animals, and microbes; changes in the ecosystem; climate change; and natural disasters—are, in
fact, linked in a single whole. Juxtaposing various images and stories with the knowledge of
experts, the artist has developed his project like one vast network.
Shezad Dawood’s “Leviathan: Sunspots and Whales” exhibition at Barakat Contemporary has
undergone its own process of transformation through crossbreeding with Korean mythology and
ancient art from the Barakat collection. We anticipate witnessing how the project will transform and
expand as it encounters diverse experts and audiences in South Korea—an environment with a
social backdrop and a culture differing from those of Europe, where the project first began.
Shezad Dawood (b.1974)
Shezad Dawood works across disciplines film, painting, neon, sculpture and more recently virtual
reality to deconstruct systems of image, language, site and narrative. Using the editing process as a
method to explore both meanings and forms, his practice often involves collaboration and
knowledge exchange, mapping across geographic borders and communities. Through a fascination
with the esoteric, otherness and science-fiction, Dawood interweaves histories, realities and
symbolism to create richly layered artworks.
Recent solo exhibitions include: A Lost Future: Shezad Dawood, Rubin Museum of Art, New York
(2018); Leviathan, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2017); Timothy Taylor, London (2016);
Galerist, Istanbul (2016); Pioneer Works, Brooklyn (2015); Fig.2 at the ICA studio, London (2015);
Parasol Unit, London; Leeds Art Gallery and OCAT Xi’an, China (all 2014), Modern Art Oxford
(2012). And group exhibitions include: The Drawing Room, London (2017); Mori Art Museum,
Tokyo (2016); Taipei Biennial (2014), Marrakech Biennial (2014), MACBA Barcelona (2014),
Witte de With (2013), Busan Biennale (2010), Tate Britain, Altermodern (2009), and the Venice
Biennale (2009). Selected collections include Tate, Government Art Collection, UK, UBS, The
British Museum, London, LACMA, Los Angeles and National Gallery of Canada.
Dawood is a Jarman Award nominee (2012), and one of the winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize
Shezad Dawood was born in London in 1974 and trained at Central St Martin’s and the Royal
College of Art before undertaking a PhD at Leeds Metropolitan University. Dawood is a Research
Fellow in Experimental Media at the University of Westminster. He lives and works in London.
Barakat Contemporary is Barakat Gallery's new space devoted to contemporary art.
Barakat Contemporary will continue to explore the points of contact and conflict among diverse
cultures through Barakat Gallery’s extensive collection and archives encompassing the humanities
and anthropology and will actively implement research-based projects.In collaboration with artists
who cross-cross the humanity and civilizations, Barakat Contemporary will showcase exhibitions
that open up new horizons for contemporary art and will introduce internationally noteworthy
artists, thus supporting artists’ long-term growth.
Barakat Contemporary will produce knowledge and discourse and lead the art scene by not only
planning professional exhibitions but also creating arenas for exchange with experts from various
For further press information, please contact:
Sohyeon Park | [email protected] | + 82 (2) 730 1949 | +82 (0) 10 8922 7308