Kay Abude – Be Creative Remain Resilient

Renowned for its long-standing programme of community engagement, The Showroom will unveil a new collaborative installation wrapping around the gallery’s facade on Saturday, 29 July as part of its annual Mural Commission.

The result of a cooperative effort between multidisciplinary artist Kay Abude and a group of eight women from the gallery’s neighbourhood and further afield in London, the mural – titled Be Creative Remain Resilient – reflects on the role of art in building resilience into our communities and promoting social change and positive interaction.

Born in Manila, Philippines, and currently based in Melbourne, Australia, Kay Abude has received international acclaim for her work addressing themes of labour and precarity, of migration and community building.

Favouring a collaborative and participatory approach to art making, her practice spans a range of media, including installation, performance, photography and silk screen printing, to draw attention to the economics of artistic production and the many difficulties migrants and disadvantaged groups face in the pathways to creative careers.

Abude’s recent commissions include: (DON’T) BE AN ARTIST, Flash Forward – Creative Laneways Project, The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, 2021; NEVER WORK/ STOP WORKING, NGV Triennial EXTRA, NGV International, Melbourne, 2021; THE BEAUTY OF ROCK BOTTOM, Stimulus Package, FUSE Festival, City of Darebin, 2021; and WORK WORTH DOING, La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo, Victoria, 2020-21.

1883 caught up with Kay Abude to find out more about Be Creative Remain Resilient.

Adam Shield, Amp Envelope, The Showroom, Dan Weill Photography

Hi Kay, thank you for taking the time to chat.
Can you tell us about your upcoming presentation at The Showroom? How did the idea for Be Creative Remain Resilient first develop?

Be Creative Remain Resilient was conceived in dialogue with Gabriela Salgado. She has been the Director of The Showroom and the gallery staff since 2022. It has been and continues to be a collaborative process approach to cultural production that is site-specific.

The title of the project stems from an earlier text-based artwork that I created in 2019 that reads Be Creative Remain Precarious.

The title of the mural commission takes a more optimistic position toward artistic expression that is essential to our wellbeing.

Kay Abude, Be Creative – Remain Resilient, artwork detail, textile, 86 x 80cm (height x width), 2023 Photo: The Showroom and Kay Abude Courtesy of the artist

Be Creative Remain Resilient is a project you have devised and developed in collaboration with a group of eight women from London. How did you go about selecting your collaborators? And what has been their contribution to the project?

The Showroom is a socially-engaged public art gallery located in a culturally and linguistically diverse area of central London. The gallery has a long-standing commitment to engaging communities and individuals in the creative work of contemporary artists.

Half of the participants are from a Middle Eastern women’s group that The Showroom has engaged before in creative workshops. The other participants are students from various fine art, design and curatorial backgrounds. This provides a combination of diverse skill sets and conceptual inputs that contributed to the conception of the final work in a very layered and interesting manner.

Over a 12 week period (April – June), we have facilitated 6 online workshops where we have shared our personal experiences on universal themes relating to labour, art and productivity.

Together we have talked about what resilience means to us as individuals. As women, as creatives, and collectively, as a group. We have come together to select words and phrases that reflect on our identities and cultures. We will be displaying our messages boldly on posters, on our bodies and through public performance for this year’s mural commission.

Kay Abude, WORK WORTH DOING, 2020-21, vinyl decal, LaTrobe Art Institute, Bendigo, Victoria, 430 x 700cm. Photo: Ian Hill.

Much of your work has a strong social focus. What are your reflections on socially engaged art practice, and how do you see your work in relation to politics?

I feel that the act of being an artist in itself is political.

Creativity can be political as it has the ability to reflect and engage with the social and political realities of the world in which it is created.

What do you hope people will take away from Be Creative Remain Resilient?

I hope the mural commission encourages introspection and for viewers to create their own meaning when contemplating the words and phrases appearing in layers through the posters, imagery and text.

We also believe that by being a mural outside a publicly funded art organisation, the project will empower passers by to consider the possibility of expressing their views and become themselves creative.

Kay Abude, BE CREATIVE REMAIN PRECARIOUS (detail), 2019, hand silkscreen on linen and polyacrylic, 153 x 256cm. Photo: Kay Abude. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Showroom Mural Commission: Kay Abude – Be Creative Remain Resilient will be on display from July 29 2023 to 31 July 2024 at The Showroom, 63 Penfold Street London.

For more info go to kayabude.com and theshowroom.org

Words and interview by Jacopo Nuvolari

Featured image: Kay Abude, (DON’T) BE AN ARTIST semaphore performance (family), 2021, inkjet print on Canson Rag Photographique 310gsm, 79.2 x 109.5cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

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