Saturday, February 15, 2014

Imran Qurehi in Dubai

Imran Qureshi continues his globe trotting with an exhibition in Dubai at the Salsali Private Museum.

Source for all photographs: Salsali Private Museum



Imran Qureshi’s new exhibition in Dubai is effectively drawing blood

Source: The National
The renowned Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi was Deutsche Bank’s 2013 Artist of the Year and as part of the touring exhibition that went along with this award, he visited Dubai. We checked out his show.
At the back of Dubai’s Salsali Private Museum (SPM) this month, there is a mountain. More than 21,000 pieces of paper have been crumpled and thrown in the far corners of the gallery to create a towering, chaotic structure. The papers bear images of Imran Qureshi’s roof garden installation that he completed last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The images show a blood- splattered area that conjures up a feeling of horrific violence but, in reality, the bloodstains are meticulous hand-painted abstract patterns of red paint interspersed with delicate images of flowers.

The installation in SPM, titled And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood, works on many levels, explains the Pakistani artist. “The problem of violence is something that is growing; every day we see a new dimension of it, no matter where you come from. That is why the mountain is so big,” says Qureshi. “But at the same time, the idea was to allow people to interact with the piece.
“When something violent happens, the people who are affected are asked to stay away while other people investigate. In my piece, people can touch it, so they can investigate it and it is about that.”
The exhibition, which opened on January 23, marks Qureshi being named Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2013. The travelling exhibition started in Berlin, went to Rome and ends, after showing in Dubai, in Birmingham, England.

In some ways, the artist has come full circ
le. The Pakistani, who studied miniature painting at Lahore’s National College of Arts and is now one of its teachers, was spotted by the Deutsche Bank team in 2011, when he painted Bait Al Serkal for the Sharjah Biennial. The Sharjah work, Blessings Upon the Land of My Love, was the first time that blood appeared in Qureshi’s work.

“I was not expecting such a strong reaction to the work, but the response was really amazing,” he recalls. “People were sitting there in tears and they were from all over the world. I realised then all the layers of the work and that everyone can connect with it.”

This realisation was driven home last May when he arrived in New York for the roof garden commission. It was just five days after the Boston Marathon bombing and it underlined the fact that the entire world could relate to such violence as what Qureshi had experienced at home in Pakistan.
In addition to the mountain, there are several new images painted on the floor of the gallery in Dubai or dripping down the walls.

“These are extension of my drawings,” he says. “I finished them only hours before the exhibition opened.”

Also in the show are a series of oval works painted in gold with blood painted on top. “I am always trying to have two opposing things in my work,” says Qureshi. “The gold is metallic, shiny and exotic and the red is the opposite to that. To create imagery that spoke on such a surface was a challenge for me.”

Along the other walls are small panel works that illustrate Qureshi’s incredible ability as a miniature painter and some other pieces on the pages of a book about the biological qualities of blood.
Friedhelm Hütte, Deutsche Bank’s global head of art, who assumed a curatorial role with Qureshi, says it was a learning experience for all of them. The prize was not a cash award but was a collaborative process that involved the exhibition, the production of a catalogue and acquisitions by the bank. “The end result was that we all learnt from each other,” says Hütte. “Imran’s work is a fascinating combination of traditional techniques that he has transformed into contemporary art and although he has general themes of terror and fear and hope, it also brings a window to a part of the world that people don’t know so much.”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sadequain - interesting article in Express Tribune

A celestial tour de force: Twenty-seven years on, Sadequain’s work remains unfinished 

By Sibtain Naqvi

Published: February 10, 2014
The symbolisms continue in first panel with the Greek pantheon arranged in the north side. Zeus and Poseidon have mangoes and fish at their feet, both symbols of fertility and are strongly associated with Amroha, where Sadequain was born and spent his youth. The presence of a pen poised like a spear is a recurring heme in Sadequain’s paintings in which evil is vanquished by the pen.               

KARACHI: It has been 27 years since Sadequain Ahmed passed away but his masterpieces still leave many awestruck. When seeing his work at Frere Hall, a visitor confronted with the seething mass of colours, figures and calligraphy that sprawls across the ceiling cannot immediately grasp the powerful unity by which they are bound together.

It is dangerous to try and describe the work. Is it a religious work with pagan undertones or vice versa? Analyses and commentaries proliferate and reduce the piece to mere pedantic expression. One must stand below and immerse themselves in the abyss of Sadequain’s delirious soul. It is a labour of love that runs the gamut of human passions — those who scan it in cold blood cannot comprehend it. It suffocates and sears. There is no landscape, no nature and nothing conventional. It is but primitive symbolism and the story of man’s endless search for knowledge, combining the twin sides of the cosmos, order and chaos. The ideas that drive the work are fertile, untamed and all devouring, like the monsoon winds lashing across Sadequain’s native land. The work is very busy, very effervescent.
The third panel revolves around the theme of the earth and the skies. Displayed in expansive calligraphy are the words ‘Arz-o-Samawat’ [Earth and the Skies] with a globe in the recess of (Z). The earth is shown dissected, and twin doves carrying the message of peace are in flight.
Sadequain had seen the Sistine Chapel ceiling and was in search of creating his own pièce de résistance. He wanted to create something that would be understood in the context of the space around it and could be viewed from any side to give a truly encompassing image. This could only be accomplished on a ceiling so one can behold the work in its mind-boggling entirety. The mural was painted in an astonishingly short time of six months. As if aware of the little time allotted to him in this world, Sadequain worked tirelessly from late 1986 to a few weeks before his death in 1987, determined to go out in a final burst of light. This work was a break from the calligraphy that had possessed him for several years. With this final piece at Frere Hall, his life had come full circle, since he had held his first exhibition there as well in 1956 which had been sponsored by his patron, Prime Minister Hussein Shaheed Suharwardy.

Something new
The medium of hardwood panels and oil pastels was a departure from Sadequain’s modus operandi.  Apart from his medium, Sadequain also digressed from his usual colours. He primarily used the complimentary colours of orange and blue in the painting, symbolising the twin elements of water and fire, the sustainer and destroyer, Vishnu and Shiva. The ceiling measures 70 feet long and 40 feet across and like Sadequain’s other murals, hails the endeavours of man to conquer the primal forces around him. Unlike the “Saga of Labor” at Mangla Dam or the “Treasures of Time” at the State Bank Building of Pakistan, Sadequain tackled the celestial heavens.
The second panel centres a clock and Sadequain uses the theme of time through the ages to note man’s steps in science. As time moves, man learns more about the world around him, his disproportionately large hands reaching out to different planets, stars and balls of energy, sifting and groping for an understanding of what has puzzled him for millennia.
The ceiling has four sides, each with a version of the quest for knowledge with the universe in the centre. The message of the masterpiece, ‘Ilm-o-Amal [Knowledge and Action]‘, is painted in the centre of the ceiling. Two eyes watch the whirling ball of fire, and angels. The slates on which Sadequain painted his calligraphy acknowledge him with the all-important Urdu alphabets of (S), (Q) and, (N) — the three syllables of his name.

Unfinished work
Unfortunately, the man who painted man’s passage through time didn’t have time himself. The brushes had moved with blinding speed, as if striving to keep pace with thoughts but not fast enough. The elixir that drove him like a dervish claimed him, in what was the biggest tragedy to sub-continental art, and he passed away on February 10, 1987 without having finished the ceiling mural. Large blue swathes of blue paint traverse the ceiling flanking the central eyes. The setting of the panels was a complex art and without the creator, the creation suffered in inept hands. Sadequain had wanted the side panels to be at an angle to the corners so they can meet unperturbed. The panels were set against the sloping wall and a ledge that protrudes from the sides hides the bottoms of the panels. A grave mistake indeed for it obstructs symbols like mangos and fishes, a representation of the twin symbols of Sadequain’s native Amroha. Also the setting hides from the view a foot of work from all sides which adds to 220 square feet in total. That is the size is a mural in itself lost forever in the shadows of the overhanging ledges. Now, it suffers from an even bigger malaise, a leaking roof which threatens to cause irreparable damage to the masterpiece, a piece of art the likes of which Pakistan and the world may never see again.
The fourth panel is a mirror of the second one. The one difference is that instead of the modern clock, the instrument of time is an antiquated hourglass, top part of which shows the Earth in early stages as Pangaea. As time passes, in bottom half we see the Earth in its present form, with the continents separated.
The painting is eerily calling out to be finished, half-finished figures contort as if waiting to be given form so they too can embark for knowledge Sadequain so wished to attain.