30 Artists, 30 Years – Shezad Dawood

Portrait of Shezad Dawood. Photo: Sue Parkhill.

30 Artists, 30 years – Shezad Dawood

BF: We have had the privilege to support two commissions: Encroachments as part of the Sharjah Biennial in March 2019, which toured to New Art Exchange, Nottingham and University of Non-Dualism presented as part of Frieze Live in October 2019, which toured to the Dhaka Art Summit in February 2020. This was right before most places closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think these projects have specifically helped your practice progress? 

SD: Encroachments winning one of the jury prizes at Sharjah, really drew a lot of attention to my project, and the way I am trying to push the envelope in terms of how VR can be used architecturally and spatially in relation to a physical installation. And University of NonDualism allowed me the space and the R&D time to reintroduce performance into my work after some years, and it is definitely something I want to do more of. So both commissions have increased the profile of my practice and consequently the possibilities open to me. 

Shezad Dawood, Encroachments, 2019, installation view: Sharjah Art Foundation, 2019, co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and New Art Exchange, Nottingham.

BF: Your oeuvre is wide-ranging, taking in research from architecture, language, history, literature, film, sci-fi, music and dance. How do you coalesce your energy around such a wide set of themes and present them in succinct installations? Are there certain types of material that you feel are best represented in specific ways?

SD: Yes there are definitely certain types of material that lend themselves to a particular mode of output, however this isn’t always entirely rational, but is something more ‘felt’. In terms of the themes, I’m often looking for some form of consonance or overlap between them. And then that allows me to build a sympathetic or succinct installation, even if using diverse media to do so.  

Paintings in progress for Wiels exhibition. Image courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary. 2020

BF: Your Leviathan project has been in the works for five years and recently it was announced that you would embark on ‘Legacy 2’ as part of the Folkestone Triennial later this year. Could you tell us a little about what’s next for that project and your work generally?

SD: Unfortunately Folkestone has now been delayed till 2021 due to the pandemic, but the project remains very much in development. With Leviathan Legacy 2, which is another VR project, we’re jumping 300 years into the future and looking at what land and sea might look like then. The VR works are autonomous but related to a series of 10 films set 20-50 years into a more immediate future. I’m currently finishing Episode 6, so hopefully that will be exhibited later this year. And I’m working on another architecture-based project and commission (inspired by the work of Muzharul Islam as with University of NonDualism), which is due to open at Wiels in Brussels this September as part of the group exhibition Risquons-Tout if we are not back in lockdown. 


Shezad Dawood works across the disciplines of film, performance, painting, neon, sculpture, virtual reality and other digital media to ask key questions of narrative, history and embodiment. Using the editing process as a method to explore both meanings and forms, his practice often involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, mapping across multiple audiences and communities. Through a fascination with the esoteric, otherness, the environment and architectures both material and virtual, Dawood interweaves stories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered artworks.

 Recent solo exhibitions include: New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2020), Bluecoat Liverpool (2019);  MOCA Toronto (2019); FriezeLIVE, London  (2019); Kunstverein, Munich (2019); A Lost Future: Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2018); 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 (2014); Leeds Art Gallery and OCAT Xi’an, China (both 2014), Modern Art Oxford (2012). 

He is represented by Jhaveri Contemporary. His full bio can be found on his website.

Interviewed by Chelsea Pettitt, Head of Arts – May 2020. For a fuller discussion, do view the interview with Shezad as part of our Open Up series on Youtube here. 

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