Beyond Boundaries

DATED: 9 NOV 2002

Weaving a narrative recital of modern times and past influences, Mohammed Imran Qureshi expresses his impressions addressed by recent travel in several countries. His perceptions of the violence threatening the world create the theme of a recent collection of artworks exhibited at Chawkandi Art, Karachi.

One of Pakistans outstanding modern miniaturists, Imran Qureshi married artist Aisha Khalid in 97, and together they have exhibited their paintings in Pakistan, London and New York. Qureshis work appears to be breaking out of the miniature format, his painting freer, less confined. Motifs and elements from earlier sequences remain juxtaposed with destructive images symbolizing todays disturbed world.

He ascribed the recent changes in his work to a three-month residency at John Moores University, Liverpool. “Generally speaking, my earlier work was very much defined in the certain frame of miniature painting, now it is more liberal though there is a concept of border remaining and a frame, but now the boundary is breaking and it is more to do with self-expression,” he explained.

In Liverpool the artist lived in Hope Street close to the port where boats moving to and from Ireland frequently unload their passengers. On the pavement an artist had placed a big installation, casting suitcases in cement and heaping them together. At the end of the street was a port-like environment so it became a strong connection that entered Qureshis work as box forms in a sequence he calls Homage to Hope Street.

The box images recur in Presentation, a series executed in opaque watercolour and gold leaf in which carefully drawn shapes and childish boxes are outlined on a page of script. This also came out of the Liverpool experience and the careful packaging of goods such as fruit and flowers.

“The presentation is impressive but there is no scent and no taste to anything. It is visually strong and that is all. The writing is to do with the importance of script in miniature painting and it is coming from my previous work. I have sanded it so it is not to be read, its importance lies in the textural effect. After September 11, everything is different, the world is seen in a different context and it is all about that.

“Wherever people go in the West they seem to consult maps as if they arent sure of the way,” he mused. This impression entered his work by way of an overall influence of lines inducted into the imagery. Mapping Terrains is a series in which the colours employed are red, white and blue, referring to the West. The allusion also encompasses the red and blue ballpoints used by the bureaucracy, often doing nothing, says the artist, but doodling.

The map series began with two big drawings which came out of KHOI International workshop in Delhi in October 2001. Resembling an aerial view, it is a mixed media map worked on a large scale with a free hand, representing people crossing borders all over the world.

Imran Qureshi continues to use motifs drawn from miniature art sources illustrating wholly contemporary issues and raising questions arising from exposure to diverse environments and opinions. One finds a recurring Basohli tree motif which first appeared in a series Love Story displayed in 99, and now depicted in a modern context as a target.

Influenced by world events the artist initiates a contrast between life and nature, and the means of the destruction of life. “If you look into the war against terror everything is being done in the name of peace but it is actually war,” he concludes.

Another recurring motif, a pair of scissors, is seen cutting a tree form – symbolic of life contrasted with destruction – and cutting up a bra, and a burqa. Qureshi describes these as “two extremes on an equal level. Everyone is looking at the burqa now, at women in Afghanistan and here, but we found in the West that women are also exploited, so there is another extreme attitude towards women there. The films and media have given a wrong impression of western women, so the two extremes are on a par.”

Pointing out how those responsible for instigating wars and violence do as they please despite the contrary wishes of the people, the artist makes red marks on a map which contrive a pattern of fine brushstrokes simulating stitching. None of Your Business is the title, the red colour expressing feelings of pain with targets scattered across the surface.

“Diverse experience has brought many changes in my work. Its more like blending with the process of art making. There are so many things to explore and discover everywhere you go, and you find some work very strong, some disappointing. The experience of extensive travel has given us more confidence in our own work and in the artists of this country.”

Imran Qureshis collection of 34 mixed-media artworks raise questions on issues that concern us all today. His message is clear: the time to look for answers is running out.