‘You Get Me?’ exhibition launches on 9 March

Artist Mahtab Hussain’s exhibition ‘You Get Me?’ is the latest exhibition to open at Gallery Oldham.  The series of portraits focuses on the changing identity of young, working-class Asian men and boys in contemporary Britain. Since 2017 this exhibition has toured around the UK to much critical acclaim.

The exhibition opens on 9 March and runs until 8 June. A free launch event at 1pm on 9 March will feature an In Conversation event with Mahtab Hussain discussing this project in detail.

Over a nine year period Mahtab Hussain photographed in Birmingham, where he grew up, stopping young men in the street and chatting to them as he took their portrait. He later expanded the project to London and Nottingham.  The men depicted in his portraits identify as Muslim, and expressed they felt ridiculed by the constant flow of negative media representation of their lives. The title of the exhibition is a phrase that Hussain repeatedly heard in his conversations with the young men. ‘You get me?’ is an urban street expression that can sometimes be used in an aggressive way, but also expresses vulnerability and uncertainty: Do you understand me? Do you know where I’m coming from?

When he began making these portraits of young working-class British Asian men and boys Hussain asked himself “What does it mean to be a British Muslim male today?” He says “I didn’t want to make portraits that made you feel sorry for these young men. I wanted to show that despite pressures, they have still found a way to hold themselves up as proud and dignified, although with complex and often conflicting identities.” Mahtab Hussain presents the portraits with quotes in the voices of the young men themselves, telling a unique story of British Asian boyhood and manhood.

Paul Jacques, Cabinet Member for Education and Culture, said: “This exhibition is just another great example of the quality of art work the gallery has to offer to residents and visitors, from local and national artists. The photos explore race across the country and cultural differences throughout the UK.

“We are delighted to have this thought provoking piece in the gallery and we hope it will inspire people to think about other cultures. We are also delighted to work in partnership with Autograph Gallery to bring this work to an Oldham audience.”

You Get Me? is curated by Mark Sealy at Autograph Gallery supported using public funding from Arts Council England.  Mark Sealy says “This exhibition explores race and representation, respect and cultural difference. Mahtab Hussain’s work is a timely investigation into the current debates on migration and identity.”