The works of Shezad Dawood reflect a keen cultural awareness, appropriating various forms of popular image-making in both East & West. These works try to make sense of the artist’s own cultural confusion. With a father born in India, a mother born in Pakistan and the artist himself born in London not to mention an Irish Catholic Stepmother the work becomes about integration in the truest sense.
“Taxi Driver” is one of a series of film poster paintings, each produced whilst the artist was working in Pakistan. In this series Shezad recreated cult mainstream film posters from the West, each work undergoing a meticulous process. In the case of Taxi Driver Shezad scouted seedy downtown Karachi for a backdrop that resembled the look and feel of the Times Square setting featured in the original. Literally re-casting, Shezad then photographed a ’taxi driver’ in the appropriate setting to re-create the original film poster. The resulting photograph was scanned and graphics and text in a mixture of English and Urdu were imported. The subsequent design was then printed out as an A4 laser print. Finally a team of well-known cinema billboard painters from Karachi (Faiz Rahi and his team) were commissioned by the artist to produce the painting. This complex process is concerned with not only the finished product but also with the slippages that occur between cultures, locations, mediums and methods of production — normally used to working on a vast scale, the billboard painters were commissioned to produce a painting to match the size of the original film poster.
Walking down Ladbroke Grove in London, Shezad literally had an epiphany when he realised that even though he had been living in the area for five years he had never noticed the “North Kensington Tandoori” sign. In a flash he saw this as a work — the ultimate readymade, the very word itself not just presenting a literal meaning, but offering an understanding as to how cultures collide. Shezad went on to produce the work “Epiphany”, a neon copy of the Tandoori sign that plays upon the evocative nature of language and cultural signs.