Where the Shadows are so Deep by Imran Qureshi, leads the viewer on a theatrical, multi-sensory journey. Exquisitely painted miniature landscapes, lit by spotlights, hang at varying levels along a huge, curved corridor. The further you walk, the darker the space becomes. It is only once the eyes adjust that you become aware of red spillages underfoot and on the walls. They suggest pools of blood until closer examination reveals petals blooming out of the gore. These flowering motifs are sometimes referred to by Qureshi as 'blessings on the land'. It is a particular experience to step on them, around them.
Approaching the luminous miniatures, made with acrylic and gold leaf on traditional wasli paper, we find landscapes, populated by trees and flowers; each designed with a curved horizon-line echoing the curve of the space. On a technical level, these paintings are very fine. Qureshi underwent rigorous training in traditional 16th Century miniaturist techniques at the National College of Arts in Lahore.
In contrast to the discovery of flowers that mitigates our encounter with the blood stains, viewing these landscapes (referred to by almost every reviewer as 'jewel-like') becomes more and more unsettling. Little things are wrong. They are not the idylls they appear to be. Some contain tiny flurries of blurred marks, others are presented with the gum-stripped edges where the artist tests his paint still visible. The natural events depicted have potentially sinister outcomes; those vines that twist so elegently around a trunk, may eventually choke the tree. What are those patches of withered branches? Why are those roots exposed?
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