A Site for Pause and Reflection
Author: Salwat Ali Publications: Dawn - Gallery (p.9) Dated: 26 May 2013
Hope triumphs over despair when we see foliate patterns surface in a garden soiled with the bloody marks of death. Apparently an unusual piece of art, this aftermath of carnage painted/created into artificial garden site gains credibility for the humane sentiments of pathos and courage it induces. The recent public opening of a large-scale site-specific work of art entitled The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, painted on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, spotlighted yet another of the artist`s installations decrying death with regenerative blooms.
Initially manifested through. All are the colours of my heart, body of work, this thematic stance grew out of Qureshis severe reaction to the 2010 gruesome mob killing of two innocent brothers in Sialkot when he said, “The psychological impact of the brutal assault robbed me of sleep and rest and I bolted to my studio in the middle of the night. After many years I was making work which was not meant for any show or to meet any exhibition deadline. The urge to paint was simply unstoppable.” This skirmish with life and death is escalating here but it is not just specific to Pakistan and Qureshis reaction continues to gain resonance as it connects with other calamity stricken regions in the world.
ln his inaugural address, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum Thomas P. Campbell, states. “For years, Imran Qureshi has created emotionally wrought, thought-provoking installations devoted to themes of tragedy and regeneration, reflecting conditions that prevail almost as a way of life in his home country – and that now, sadly, also resonate in the wake of the recent Boston Marathon tragedy. The installations presence on the Roof Garden this summer creates an especially timely and evocative commentary on these devastating events, and encourages us to respond thoughtfully both as individuals and as citizens of a shared community.”
Technically the artist creates impact with an unchanging minimal vocabulary of splattered paint and floral/foliate pattern transplanted through a monochrome palette of perylene maroon acrylic paint. The magic is in the suggestive power; the evocation of a bloodbath that the splashes create which compels viewer engagement. In every new location this recreation of a massacre and subsequent rebirth goes beyond the devastation we are experiencing here to connect with narratives of violence and bloodshed in those surroundings. It literally gains a new life.
Physically the challenges related to the specific site and its scale also transform the work. As evidenced in his open air Sharjah 2011 and Sydney Biennale 2012 installations, instead of working on any pre-defined concept Qureshi prefers to collaborate closely with natures forces and respond to the locations structural logic and usual accidents/ erosions on the floors surface.
Flooding his chosen sites with acrylic, the artist works the paint into thickets of ornamental leaves with foliate patterns that evoke the luxuriant walled gardens of the historic Mughal miniatures. On the Roof Garden, the blooms also echo the verdant foliage of Central Park – a green space conceived in the 19th century to function as a site of respite and tranquillity in the midst of the chaotic and cacophonous city.
A miniature wizard skilled in the intricacies of micro, precision painting Qureshi shifts easily from the boundaries of the page onto mega concrete surfaces to transplant his landscapes to specific architectural environments. In the Roof Garden project, he uses nearly 8,000-square-foot open air space as his canvas to create areas of spilled and splattered paint and improvised Pahari miniature leaf motif.
This Roof Garden programme which began with Frank Stella on the Roof, 2007; Jeff Koons, 2008; Roxy Paine, 2009; Doug and Mike Starn, 2010; Anthony Caro, 2011, Tomas Saraceno, 2012 now has Imran Qureshi who (in- stead of sculptural forms) happens to be the first artist to create a work by painting directly onto the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.