Imran Qureshi is a renowned Pakistani artist who speaks to the intersection of violence, politics, and humanity. His art reflects contemporary society, particularly in Pakistan, where political turmoil and violent conflict have become commonplace.

Qureshi was born in Hyderabad, Pakistan, in 1972. He studied miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore, where he received a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in 1993 and a Master's degree in 1995.

Before attending the National College of Arts, Qureshi had already shown an interest in the arts and had completed a degree in painting from the University of Punjab. Additionally, he had participated in several group exhibitions and workshops, including the National Calligraphy Exhibition in Islamabad in 1992. These early experiences helped shape his artistic vision and laid the groundwork for his future success.

After graduating in 1995, Qureshi began teaching miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore. He quickly became known for his innovative approach to the traditional technique, incorporating contemporary themes such as political and social commentary and motifs into his work. This approach earned him international recognition, and he has since exhibited his art in galleries and museums around the world.

Imran Qureshi is a master miniature aesthetic. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

However, rather than succumbing to despair or hopelessness, he uses his art to advocate for peace, justice, and strong institutions, sending a powerful message of resilience and the possibility of positive change. Through immersive installations, he encourages viewers to engage in dialogue and critical thinking, raising awareness and advocating for positive change. His art serves as a powerful tool for promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.

Qureshi's artistic style has significantly transformed throughout his career, from traditional miniature paintings to large-scale installations. Qureshi began his artistic journey by mastering miniature painting techniques, a traditional art form that originated in the Mughal courts of India and Pakistan in the 16th century. He then explored other mediums, such as printmaking, sculpture, and video art, allowing him to experiment with new forms and techniques.

In recent years, Qureshi's work has evolved into large-scale installations combining painting, sculpture, and architecture. One such example is his 2011 installation, Blessings Upon the Land of My Love at the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates, where he created a blood-red garden that covered the floor of a courtyard. Firstly, by creating a blood-red garden out of a symbol of violence, Qureshi challenges viewers to confront the contradictions and complexities of violence and conflict. This encourages dialogue and reflection on the impact of violence on society, promoting a peaceful and inclusive approach to addressing such issues.

Blessings Upon the Land of My Love, 2011 by Imran Qureshi. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation

The installation serves as a poignant memorial to the victims of violence in Pakistan and worldwide, highlighting the need for access to justice and accountability for those responsible. Qureshi's installation also emphasizes the importance of effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. By using a public space such as a courtyard in a biennial, he creates a platform for engaging with important social issues. He encourages institutions to play a role in addressing these challenges.

Blending old and new techniques allows him to comment on current issues such as war, terrorism, and political corruption in a thought-provoking and poignant way.

The garden reflects on the violence and political turmoil in Pakistan and beyond and the deep love and connection people have for their land and their country. The blood-red colour evokes the pain and suffering caused by conflict, while the garden represents the hope and resilience of the human spirit.

Imran Qureshi's site-specific installations are not just works of art but powerful calls to action that demand attention and action. His installations often take over entire spaces, transforming them into thought-provoking and immersive environments that invite viewers to engage with complex and challenging issues such as violence, political corruption, social injustice and religious and cultural tensions.

And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood by Imran Qureshi. Image courtesy of Dawn. 

For example, in his installation,  And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood, at Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, which has also been displayed in various locations across the world, Qureshi used red paint to create a stark and striking pattern on a gallery floor.

In his use of red paint, in Qureshi’s installation, And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood, which symbolizes both violence and love in Pakistani culture, creates a visually striking pattern that invites viewers to contemplate the impact of violence on society. This prompts viewers to reflect on the consequences of violence and the need for peaceful and inclusive approaches to conflict resolution.

Secondly, the use of a gallery space as the setting for this installation emphasizes the role of art in promoting dialogue and critical thinking about difficult issues. By creating a platform for engagement and reflection, Qureshi's work encourages viewers to consider the complexities of violence, justice, and peace, fostering a culture of discussion and understanding.

The installation prompts viewers to confront the consequences of violence and reflect on the importance of building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions that uphold the principles of justice and promote peace.

Moderate Enlightenment, 2009 by Imran Qureshi. Photo by Alfredo Rubio. Image courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation

Qureshi's Moderate Enlightenment series, created in 2009, highlights the segregation of religious people post-9/11. He challenges the perception that certain clothing or activities are threatening based on religious identity, noting that what may be fashionable in one instance is perceived as dangerous in another. Through this work, Qureshi asked viewers to consider the role of tradition and modernity in shaping our world and our future.

Qureshi's exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac also offers a fascinating exploration of memory, infinity and the power of art to capture and convey complex ideas and emotions.

The exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac features a range of Qureshi's work, including large-scale paintings and smaller works on paper. One of the standout pieces in the exhibition is a series of paintings titled The Fold, which features intricate geometric patterns that seem to fold and unfold before the viewer's eyes.

Using folding and layering techniques in his artwork, Qureshi creates a sense of depth and dimensionality that reflects the complexity of memory and the infinite possibilities of the future. Qureshi's art delves into the complexities of tradition and modernity, as well as social violence. For the past decade, he has used the color red in his paintings, splashing it from various distances to signify the devastating effects of terrorism in Pakistan and other parts of the world.

Qureshi has been widely recognized as a politically conscious artist whose works reflect both local and global identities. His art has been exhibited in numerous locations, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New York, London, Berlin, and Paris.

In 2013, he received The Roof Garden Commission from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a testament to his talent and vision. Most recently, in 2017, Qureshi was awarded the prestigious Art in Embassies' International Medal of Arts by the United States Department of State for his contributions to promoting cultural understanding. Qureshi's art is a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of the modern world and the role of the artist in shaping society.

Qureshi's art goes beyond aesthetics and serves as a catalyst for change. His artwork inspires to think about the impact of violence and conflict on society and to work towards sustainable development goals. Qureshi's installations not only challenge us to confront global issues but also to take action and work towards a more peaceful and equitable world.

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