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Imran Qureshi

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1972, Hyderabad, Pakistan
Lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan

Imran Qureshi is one of the front-runners of the revivalist and re-invented miniature traditions in Pakistan. He presents his art as a dialogue between history and contemporary, tradition and modern, and religious and secular. His large-scale installations are infused with a similar delicate and precise rendering as his miniatures.



Bachelor of Fine Arts, National College of Arts, Lahore



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Qureshi plays on the line between the traditional and modern in his art

Imran Qureshi's art is situated along a complex axis of tradition and modernity, remapping both the form and context. Trained as a miniaturist and evoking the Persian and and Mughal aesthetic, his artistic inclinations bring about layers of re-locating this historical tradition. He would use the form of miniature for contemporary narratives, and on another layer within it, invest the content with both the traditional and the modern, conservative and liberal icons and motifs.

For example his Moderate Enlightenment series, 2009, concludes the form of miniatures displaying contemporaneous, ubiquitous characters carrying products of a globalised world, in attires that are deemed Western, albeit sporting other signifiers of tradition. These complexities are mirrored in various strata in his country Pakistan with religious fundamentalism and an inclination towards a pro-West state policy going in tandem.

Imran Qureshi, Moderate Enlightenment, 2009.

The visual vocabulary carries signs of paradoxes

Imran’s works are created to be viewed through both a micro and a macro insight. This engagement with the artwork directly in deciphering the essence and intention of his art is an important element. It signals the presence of paradoxes, and they reveal themselves according to how the audience views it.

The site-specific installation And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Cleaned, 2013, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, was created by splattering the rooftop of the museum with red acrylic paint and then intricate patterns ornamented on the splatter, leaving behind mesmerising effects of luxurious foliage. From afar, the pattern looks like spilled blood, the gruesome vestiges of the bombings in his home country and elsewhere, but once the viewer walks over the piece, the pattern evolves to reveal rich blossoms of leaves. This fuses the reminder of daily deaths with hopes of fresh beginnings.

Imran Qureshi, And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Cleaned, 2013. Installation view, The Roof Garden Commission, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Detail of The Rooftop Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He develops a contemporary rendering of Miniatures

Imran Qureshi re-visualises the figurative tradition of the miniature painting and pushes the formal boundaries to incorporate abstraction in his renderings . The historical miniature tradition heavily invested in a structuralist visual vocabulary, with architecture arranged in a formalistic manner and human figures populating the page according to set hierarchies. This is completely upturned and the miniatures are given a new lease with a contemporary language.

His portraits carry this stamp of unfamiliarity, revoking the historical notions of portraiture with a more abstract language. His portraits are no longer an emperor in full regalia but egg shaped monochromes and floral patterns on gold backgrounds.

Imran Qureshi, Portraits, 2009, opaque watercolour and gold leaf on wasli paper.

Large-scale installations share the same level of detailing as his other works

Imran Qureshi very efficaciously travels between the small-scale miniatures and large-scale on-site installations. His training as a miniaturist has inculcated in him the slow and deliberate movements that are required to produce the small exquisite paintings. The painstaking and delicate detailing through various designs, textures and colours in the miniatures is replicated in his large scale installations.

The large scale installations like the Rooftop Commission at the MET or the Sydney Biennial transforms the location, expanding the horizons. The same precision and deliberation is tested out against these real locations with an equal fervour and result. The containment and anticipation that miniatures have is also granted a similar acknowledgement in the installations, as they are remarkably positioned and controlled to suit the boundaries and topography of these locations.

Imran Qureshi, They Shimmer Still, 2012. Installation view, 18th Biennial of Sydney, 2012.

Foliage imagery has an overwhelming presence in Imran's works

Imaran Qureshi, in his small-scale miniatures as well as his large-scale installations, works with the images of foliage in varying colours. The foliage is rendered with distinct gradations, various colours and textures, sometimes to merge with the backdrop of the installation. They are executed in minute details and mostly follow a repetitive and geometric patterning, after the traditional patterns seen in Islamic architecture.

The foliage in essence is invoked with ideas of religion, fundamentalism, violence, while manoeuvring through a complex map of human emotions, of hope and beauty.

Imran Qureshi at work with his leaf-patterning.