This past weekend, HB and I went on a date to see the work of Imran Qureshi at Ikon gallery in Birmingham.
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).
We had gone to see the work of Imran Qureshi; Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2103.
Qureshi is nearly 50 and lives and works in Pakistan. He trained in miniature painting, learning the discipline and history of the traditional art.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.