Duet: a mini-retrospective of two artists: Othman Abdullah and Nicholas Addison

Dates:5 August 2023 to 9 August 2023
Times:Please see listing for full opening times

Othman and Nicholas are taking the opportunity to present work from throughout their making careers spanning the 1970s to the present day. Both were educated in English art schools in the 1970s, Othman Textiles at Chelsea, Nicholas Painting in Cheltenham. They have known each other and worked on their parallel careers from 1979 onwards, often exhibiting together. On the surface their work may appear very different, but over the years there has been an exchange of ideas and processes culminating in subtle but discernible overlaps and parallels; in many ways the show is a kind of retrospective dialogue.

Othman worked as a free-lance textile designer and fashion model for many years turning to painting in the new millennium. He gained an MA in Fine Art Painting at UAL in 2008. At the time he was determined to seek ways to draw on the multiple experiences that had shaped his visual practice. As such he drew on African/Zanzibari and British textiles, Arabic calligraphy, improvisatory strategies and contemporary, diasporic theory. One particular formation began to dominate his working process, the palimpsest, one in which layers of script and mark-making are superimposed in sequence to produce an inter-woven field that is neither script, nor pattern, nor figuration. The result appears to suggest erasure, secrets possibly disavowal. From within this field of ambiguity Othman began to seek new forms: some playful, others grotesque, frequently beautiful.

As you view his painting and printmaking in this exhibition you will find this process used variously and to different ends. Sometimes he works to a theme for a collective show, as with the ‘Illumination’ series drawing on Persian miniatures illustrating the Shahnama, A Persian epic poem (977-1010 CE) or T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland 1922, to coincide with the Turner Contemporary exhibition. At other times, the process of making dominates, exploring the possibilities of paint and colour under different conditions. What most of his work has in common is an attempt to make something coherent and beautiful out of the fragmentary and uncertain; perhaps this can be seen as a metaphor for diasporic experience itself.

Nicholas began painting at a young age and is showing work from his teenage years (in Margate) up to the present day. The early work has a febrile intensity drawing on an excitable imagination that is nevertheless underpinned by an interest in observation. He went to art college at a time when abstraction was being promoted, specifically ‘systems painting’, but stuck tenaciously to figuration, thematically navigating various domestic territories but always with an eye to historical precedent.

He was educated to become an art teacher and worked in London schools, sixth form colleges and universities and has written extensively in the field of art education. Throughout this time he continued his practice, particularly in drawing and watercolour, working to portrait and decorative commissions, developing print-making and finding life-drawing a particularly sustaining discipline. Since retiring he has returned to his practice and has begun three series: The Cliffs of Cliftonville, (shown here together for the first time), Drawings, ‘Myths of Modernism’ and ‘Tokens of Zanzibar’.

Saturday 5th             11.00am – 7.00pm
Sunday 6th.                11.00 am – 6.00pm
Monday 7th                2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Tuesday 8th              11.00am – 6.00pm
Wednesday 9th     11.00am – 2.00pm