In the studio with … Shezad Dawood

“The role of the artist,” said Shezad Dawood, is “to undermine the past to explore the future.” Throughout his career, the London-born artist has remained true to this approach, whether in paintings that reuse Pakistani historical textiles or in cinematographic works that explore the encounter of migration and marine biology. Since 2016, Dawood has worked regularly with virtual reality (VR) technology, the latest to create The Terrarium, a virtual reality experience that projects the appearance of this planet in 300 years (which will be able to see Folkestone Library until November 2). His latest work, the mixed reality video Concert from Bangladesh, reimagines the charity concert held by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison in New York in 1971; its premiere will take place on 1 August at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Where is your studio?
Near the Olympic Park in East London.

What do you like most about the space?
The neighbours. It is a large mixed community made up of artists, architects, fashion designers and residents. It is also next to the Via Verda, so there is always the possibility to leave the studio and go for a walk.

What frustrates you about it?
That my desk is always a mess.

The Terrarium (still; 2020), Shezad Dawood with ecoLogicStudio and Graham Fitkin. Courtesy of UBIK Productions

Do you work alone?
No, I would be bored. I love having other people bounce ideas. We’re a small team, so it’s like a small family, and I love that.

What does your studio smell like?
Fabrics, very similar to my childhood, growing around many textiles.

What is the strangest object there is?
The handmade furry model he had made of Behemoth, the cat that walks vertically The Master and Margarita – one of my favorite books.

What is the best book in your studio?
My 1972 copy of Angela Davis If they come in the morning …, which I inherited from my father.

R (2020), Shezad Dawood

R (2020), Shezad Dawood

Post images of works by other artists?
I have a bunny drawing that my daughter Una made next to my desk. And a wonderful image sent to me by photographer Mariana Cook (from a test casting of one of my sculptures).

Kitchens in the studio?
We often pre-coveted, but for reasons of social distancing, we tend to bring food or eat our own lunch these days. My staple is a tofu rice with kimchi.

What do you hear while working?
FM rinse.

What do you usually wear?
An old pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?
No, I only live 20 minutes, so it doesn’t get to that even if I’m working very late.

Who is the most interesting visitor you have had in your studio?
The wonderful architect Sumayya Vally visited today.

‘The Terrarium’, commissioned by UP Projects, is in the Sassoon Gallery, Folkestone Library, until November 2; “Shezad Dawood: Concert From Bangladesh (An Open-Air Film Projection)” is in Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, on 1 August.

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