Imran Qureshi’s painting, now on exhibition Thaddaeus Ropac’s Pantin gallery, in The Seeming Endless Path of Memory, is an art of opposites colliding, connecting, flowing into and out of one another. No matter how I looked at this compelling exhibition of otherwise abstract painting I saw doubling, splitting, folding, repetition, and contradictions: each opposite comes alive through technique, form and associations both within a single painting and in their turn to the world outside the gallery. It’s a fascinating body of work that, while potentially familiar to audiences in other parts of the world, is little known here in France.
|Imran Qureshi, The Endless Path, 2018|
|Imran Qureshi, The Leprous Brightness, 2019|
However, even without these references, visitors will be struck by the range of emotional extremes the artist invites us to experience in front of the works. Many of them are about bifurcation, folding and doubling, but on another level, are violent and aggressive, filled with anger and destruction that can be seen in, for example, the explosions of red paint on unsuspecting surfaces. Then, while immersed in the same extreme emotional register, we notice a blooming flower emerging, that, in turn, becomes a heart at the centre of the image, from which waves of serenity reverberate. Over time, the flowers transform into explosions of paint, like fireworks erupting on the canvas. And before we know it, they have morphed into a memory of Anselm Kiefer’s ashen sunflowers hanging their heads before the tragedies they have witnessed. And like Kiefer’s sunflowers, there is always a glimmer of hope somewhere on Qureshi’s canvas. For example, in Love Me, Love Me Not, 2019, a delicate blue line, like a vine filled with life climbs the length of a bloody red stem, suggesting that there will always be regrowth, even after the most tumultuous of blasts. In other paintings, the explosion is so filled with dynamism and movement that there is no question life will continue even before the memories go cold.
|Imran Qureshi, Separated, 2019|
|Imran Qureshi, Do You Remember Still, How It Was Once, 2019|
|Imran Qureshi, This Day and The Anguish of This Day, 2019|
Visitors will also be reminded of Yves Klein’s works. Not only for the resplendent cobalt blue, but the traces, smudges and smearings of paint that recall the mistakes, the humanness of the application of paint. The body, both inside and out – its symmetry, imaged across two canvases is like an echo of Klein’s “Anthropometrie” series from 1960. Other of Qureshi’s paintings have the impression of brightly coloured x-rays. The inside of the body is on full display in blue, red and gold. But it’s the blue that most reminds us of Klein. Blue is the sea, the sky, and that long history of art that privileges lapis lazuli and gold, articulating the preciousness of painting which is, sadly, inseparable from the economic exploitation of painting. Blue is the landscape, blue is the history of a bird flying across the sky, blue is the wealth of the history of painting on a single canvas.