BRENT BIENNIAL: PIO ABAD, KILBURN

Remember This House I Study, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

Remember this House, is the first permanent public artwork by leading British-Filipino artist Pio Abad. It takes the form of two murals on Kilburn High Road that are inspired by vanitas still life paintings. Emerging as an art form in the 16th century, vanitas paintings intended to symbolise the fragility of human life through the depiction of objects, which were mainly goods and artefacts brought into Europe for the first time from colonised countries. Abad shares this interest in the lives and meaning of objects which he looks at as carriers of narratives, each one able to contain an entire collection of histories, geographies and emotional journeys.

The objects presented in the murals reveal an unexpected history of Kilburn High Road by bringing together artefacts from the Brent Museum Archives, ornaments of personal significance shared by local residents and items that Abad photographed on the high road. Among them, an ashtray from the Empire Windrush, a face mask made from African wax fabric, a hand-painted Romanian Easter egg, a traditional Somalian leather bag decorated with seashells and a wooden clock from Fiji in the shape of a turtle.

In creating these contemporary vanitas murals, Abad commemorates how the complex, and often painful, history of colonialism has shaped the communities living on Kilburn High Road, while also celebrating the people from the area, whose stories are embedded within the objects.

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Pio Abad lives and works in London.

Abad’s practice is concerned with the social and political signification of things. His work, in a range of media including textiles, drawing, installation and photography, uses strategies of appropriation to mine alternative or repressed historical events, unravel official accounts and draw out threads of complicity between incidents, ideologies and people. Often taking on the form of domestic accessories, Abad’s artworks glide seamlessly between these histories, enacting quasi- fictional combinations with their leftovers.

He has exhibited nationally and internationally. Selected recent exhibitions include: Things Entangling, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2020); Phantom Limb, Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai (2019); Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, Kadist, San Francisco (2019); Splendour, Oakville Galleries, Ontario (2019); Fairest of the Fair, Bellas Artes Projects, Manila (2019); To Make/ Wrong/Right Now, The 2nd Honolulu Biennial, Hawai’i (2019); Imagined Nation/Modern Utopias, the 12th Gwangju Biennial, Korea (2018); Soil and Stone, Souls and Songs, Para Site, Hong Kong (2017); Notes on Decomposition, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (2016); 1975 - 2015, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2016); Still (the) Barbarians, EVA International Biennial, Limerick (2016) and Some Are Smarter Than Others, Gasworks, London (2014).

The work is co-commissioned by Create London and Brent Borough of Culture 2020.


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