Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi’s new exhibition, Where the Shadows are so Deep is an absolute must-see. Set within an eerily lit Curve – the Barbican’s winding concrete gallery – the 35-piece exhibition is both enthralling and disturbing, its arrangement designed to unsettle and disorient the viewer. It comprises of Qureshi’s signature motifs – splattered blood which on closer inspection is revealed as intricately painted flowers and leaves – and brightly painted, glowing miniature paintings – each vibrant with finely painted motifs (leaves, flowers, dragonflies), emphasising Qureshi’s talent and expertise as a miniature artist.
A shift from Qureshi’s former miniature series (which centred on human subjects) the focus of the majority of the paintings is on a single tree or pair of trees. Their majestic forms stand proudly within the frames he has created for them; in some works they are gilded with gold and in others are flaming with orange, red and purple leaves. You can discern themes of life, death, love and beauty, but with a strong element of violence too, with blossoms overlaid with splashes of blood-like red a recurring feature.
We spent a long, indulgent time pondering whether the series is a comment on the violence being wrought on the natural world by mankind – but that’s perhaps too obvious for an artist as subtle as Imran Qureshi. He is one of the most powerful proponents and practitioners of Pakistan’s contemporary Miniature Art movement – a group of artists who have revived and modernised ancient forms of Mughal and Persian miniature art. His work has been internationally lauded and admired. He was invited to create a work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s prestigious summer Rooftop Commission in 2013 and was awarded the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year award in 2014, amongst several other accolades. From his confident and dextrous use of colour, texture, light and space in Where the Shadows are so Deep it’s easy to see why.
When: 18 February – 10 July 2016
Where: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Website: Barbican Centre
By Zahra Khan. Zahra is an independent curator with a focus on contemporary South Asian Art, and is currently curating exhibitions for Satrang Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan. She lives in London where she works for Blain|Southern. Zahra has a Masters in Contemporary Art History from SOAS.
Top photo: Barbican Centre
Posted on: 21 February 2016