Reviews

Imran Qureshi at Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, England

Imran Qureshi, Opening word of this new scripture, 2013, gouache and gold leaf on wasli paper, 10⅝" x 8⅝". COURTESY THE ARTIST, IKON GALLERY, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, AND CORVI-MORA, LONDON

Imran Qureshi, Opening word of this new scripture, 2013, gouache and gold leaf on wasli paper, 10⅝" x 8⅝".

COURTESY THE ARTIST, IKON GALLERY, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, AND CORVI-MORA, LONDON

Lahore-based artist Imran Qureshi is known as a master of traditional miniature painting wryly readapted to modern motifs. His works have included, for example, a figure deftly painted in ancient Mughal style wearing cargo shorts and carrying a shopping bag. This wide-ranging exhibition highlighted Qureshi’s finesse with a broader range of mediums, including video and installation.

The show opened with miniatures executed since 1999, including the riveting Self-Portrait (2009), a cameo-like oval of Qureshi sniffing a flower as dragonflies flit about. In Opening word of this new scripture (2013), the artist appears on a rooftop, inpainting pools of bloodred pigment with precisely rendered flower petals. This recurring motif—spilt blood, embellished with a delicate petal pattern—appears often in Qureshi’s recent work. With it, he seems to be asking us not to avert our eyes from violence but to contemplate its toll on the innocent.

Elsewhere, in works from 2013 and 2014, paint spilled off the canvas and onto the walls and floors. The exhibition culminated with And they still seek the traces of blood (2013–14), a gigantic installation made of about 30,000 pieces of paper (actually reproductions of the artist’s own work), daubed with red, crumpled up, and thrown into a room. Towering over the viewer like a mountain of bloody rags, it had a disturbing, visceral power.

A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 94.

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