Imran Qureshi      Where the Shadows are so Deep     The Barbican Curve

 

This exhibition is comprised of 35 miniature paintings hung at varying heights in the vast dimly lit space of the Curve gallery. In his installation Qureshi has played with scale, contrasting his intimate, delicate, jewel-like paintings with the high ceilinged huge area and, what looks like large splatterings of blood. On closer inspection these giant splashes are delicately painted with petals as if they are morphing into bloom. Many of the small paintings are also splashed with this blood red paint, visually linking them to the miniatures, as if the Curve itself is a large canvas.

The gold leafed works are spotlit so that as you walk through the space, they are the light that punctuates the dark grey gloom of the interior.

The miniatures are painted on wasli paper in the traditional way as practised 500 years ago in the Mughal reign. Each painting has a decorative border, though the painting often sits off centre, adding to the sense of unease in these works. This is accentuated by the seemingly random positioning of the works, some high up some low down, so the viewers engage with the display as they move closer to look at each piece. The curved horizons further echo the exhibition space. The figurative images depict trees, twisted vines, blood red flower splatters or figures imprisoned behind prickly foliage. The imagery, though delicately painted and flecked or painted with gold, is deeply foreboding. Many of the images are cut or have two images in the frame to create a further disruption.

It is as if Qureshi has created a dark magical forest with a golden trail and you follow the curved, illustrated narrative.

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