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Rabiya Choudhry – COCO!NUTS!

Transmission, Glasgow until October 20th
Four stars

The neon sign in Transmission’s window offers a warm welcome to Rabiya Choudhry’s world for her first solo exhibition following appearances in group shows at Tramway and Dundee Contemporary Arts. Simply called Dad (2018), the sign is a nod to both Choudhry’s own family, and to the wider Scots-Pakistani diaspora her work stems from, and whose ubiquitous local shops have become an essential part of everyday culture over the last half century or so. 

There are more echoes of this inside in the array of dresses, ties and purses printed up with some of Choudhry’s distinctive cartoon-style bombs-and-black-cloud iconography from her paintings and hung here on open-all-hours market-stall rails. This makes for a playfully personal exploration of an east/west culture clash that all but bursts through the explosions of colour that free-associate their way out of the accompanying nine paintings like cartoon demons being purged.

Eyes are everywhere in Choudhry’s work, staring out from an angry-looking brain in Black Temple (2014), which personifies a scary looking place of worship with a tongue for an entrance and Edenesque snakes in the grass beyond. Eyes are there too in Houses for the Holy (2016), staring in judgement at anyone who dares to cross the house’s threshold. And there they are again in Rosemary’s Baby (2012) alongside snarling teeth and an electrified tail as vivid greens and reds clash. Elsewhere, a combat-helmeted canine-looking tank ploughs through a bone-strewn battlefield and bombs are lined up like space invaders, while Freud would have a field day with the Numbskulls-referencing Dream Baby Dream (2016).

At times the poster-like immediacy of the paintings resembles the pop-street art of Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring, but in colours as brash as a Bollywood poster advertising comic book horror video-nasties. In this way COCO!NUTS! is a fearlessly honest warts-and-all display of vulnerability which becomes a vivid show of political and personal strength.

The List, October 2018


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