Idris Khan: Conflicting Lines at Victoria Miro
Each one of the visual arts takes on a different approach to its subject and creates an impact based on its own unique criteria. Idris Khan uses a vast array of materials ranging from chalk and charcoal to oil sticks, negatives and even rubber stamps, in order to concoct hybrid creations that explore the boundaries between photography and painting.
The works displayed are essentially prints of paintings that Khan has created himself. At first sight, it is difficult to figure out what methods have been used; this ambiguity drives the viewer to examine the works closer and look from different angles. The backgrounds are plain and monochromic, but what gives the works vitality is the laboured overlaying of writing, which is then wiped out until it is undecipherable, giving it an impressionistic touch. His pieces are concerned with the process, and seek to trace the journey rather than merely offer a fixed outcome. The finished product becomes a meeting point for all the ideas gathered on the way, and a marriage between mediums.
Khan’s creative process begins by observing the inescapable images of conflict in the media. These scenes stir deep emotions within him, and he records his thoughts in short passages; the words that flow out end up forming the foundations of his work. He writes them, sands them, rewrites them and wipes them out until their trace remains but their meaning disappears. He photographs every stage of the procedure so that the entire process is documented, and he is then able to select and combine the most visually striking features.
Khan is fascinated by the opportunity of merging sharp and blurred lines, a characteristic of photography that isn’t as easily achieved in painting. He enjoys the control that photography provides, and the fact that a photograph isn’t fixed, that there is always the possibility of changing the opacity, the light, the tones. While interesting in their own right, the paintings themselves were merely a means to make the photographs, so neither the artworks nor his writing are central to his Conflicting Lines collection, it is rather the combination of everything he has created that takes centre stage. Even if it is all faded and it has lost its original clarity, the mixture of it all gathers new meaning as it comes into form.
Innovative and intriguing, Idris Khan’s visual experiments strike for their simplicity and the surprising openness to interpretation that can stem from a very personal emotional journey.
Idris Khan: Conflicting Lines is at Victoria Miro from 1st May until 6th June 2015, for further information visit here.