Imran Qureshi

This past weekend, HB and I went on a date to see the work of Imran Qureshi at Ikon gallery in Birmingham.

Ikon Gallery

Ikon Gallery is a beautiful mix of old, new and cutting edge modern. It’s housed in one of Birmingham’s most beautiful Victorian buildings but has a lot of contemporary features too – I really loved the singing lift (ascending scales going up and descending going down).

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We had gone to see the work of Imran Qureshi; Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2103.

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Qureshi is nearly 50 and lives and works in Pakistan. He trained in miniature painting, learning the discipline and history of the traditional art.

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He has developed his work to juxtapose the historical style with modern-day current affairs and he paints his personal observations which often express the violence he sees and hears of both locally and world-wide.

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He had a strict training, sitting crossed-legged on the floor copying originals using a single haired brush but this gave him the understanding of how miniature painting has a narrative quality. He now wants to keep the traditional techniques but use them to tell the stories of today.

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As art-works they are breath-taking and these (iPhone) pics don’t do them justice. Up close it is almost unbelievable that a brush stroke can be so small, or a mans patience so endless or his eyesight so good!

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He uses splashes of red paint to reference blood splattering but carefully and intricacy overlaid are what he calls “germs of hope” taking the form of blooming flowers.

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The installation below was in a book in the reference room and shows this technique on a huge scale and although there are some hand-painted installations in a similar style in the gallery, they are too dark to photograph. This open air one must have had tremendous impact.

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I think it’s on until the end of Jan and I’d highly recommend a trip to see it. In the resource room is a short film about the training for miniature painters – days spent sitting crossed legged on the floor, copying and layering from one palette of 18 colours that they mix on the back of their hand, brushes hand-made of hair and feathers. Next time I think I have it any where near bad, I’m going to remember the most beautiful, exquisite works of art being made in these conditions, count my lucky stars and work harder.

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