Journey to the West | Abdul Abdullah | 2017
75 x 130cm.
Courtesy the artist and Lisa Fehily Contemporary Art.
Photograph - Sam Roberts Photography
“In this self-portrait I have reprised elements from previous series: Siege (2014) and Coming to terms (2015). Again I am wearing the ape mask from Planet of apes (2001) that for me speaks to how I imagine I am perceived as the monstrous, threatening and villainous ‘other’. On this occasion the title of the work refers to the 16th century Chinese novel attributed to Wu Cheng'en that tells of a monk being accompanied by three disciples to retrieve Buddhist documents from Central Asia. Arthur Waley's abridged English is titled ‘Monkey’, prioritizing the disciple Sun Wukong, also known as the ‘Monkey King’. The story of the Monkey King has permeated through East Asian cultural forms and still consistently appears in traditional Indonesian theatre and in contemporary Japanese anime like ‘Dragon Ball’.
In my version of Journey to The West, I as the monkey king sit alone, monstrous, but surrounded by opulence, contemplating the journey that awaits me. ‘The West’ in this work is capitalised to refer to the current politicised definition. I sit in the richness of a culture anticipating venturing into a place that will only see me as something ugly and bad.”