The boy who couldnt sleep

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah

Abdul-Rahman Abdullah lives and works in Perth, Western Australia. Working primarily in sculpture and installation, his work explores the mimetic qualities of wood carving alongside sourced materials, domestic objects and atmospheric lighting to immerse audiences in preternatural and unexpected environments.


Abdul-Rahman Abdullah is represented in the exhibition by the work The boy who couldn’t sleep. It takes the form of a life-sized child figure made from carved and painted wood to which the artist has added buffalo horns. We sense that the reason the child cannot sleep is because of night-terror. His body is wrapped in a bed sheet from the neck down, and the way the sheet falls tells us that he has drawn his knees up and clasped his arms around them—both to make himself a small target, and as a form of self-soothing. But huddling is not this child’s only protective mechanism; the horns are another—equal parts display and defence. The work’s title and the addition of these horns shift an otherwise realistic sculpture into the fantasy realm of storybook narrative. The work was one of a series originally shown in a solo exhibition by Abdullah called Among Monsters that addressed supernatural themes in an urban domestic setting. These monsters are more than the imagined creatures that lurk under the bed and loom out of dark corners in everyone’s childhood. These are concealed, shapeless spirits and demons that haunt the world. Supernatural elements known as djinn (an Arabic word with variant spellings, sometimes also translated as genie), they are resonant with unseen psychological power.

Christine Toussainte Morrow

Top Image

The boy who couldnt sleep, 2017
Painted wood, buffalo horn  •  56 × 127 × 74 cm
Photography by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah  •  Image courtesy of the artist and Moore Contemporary