Imran Qureshi – Making Imaginations Soar
“It all happens simultaneously for me; I can work on a large-scale abstract installation and be working on a small jewel like miniature painting at the same time. In college I was involved in both drama and puppet theatre. As I said earlier my minor was in painting and I enjoyed the carelessness it afforded, it had an element of theatricality that really suited my disposition”. (Artist statement, 'The Here and The Now – Imran Qureshi in Conversation with Amna Tirmizi Naqvi', Imran Qureshi, 2013)
Imran Qureshi’s practice always leaves one pondering about the diversity of the mediums as well as the scale of the narrative. Qureshi received his education at the iconic Miniature Painting Department of the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore where he immersed himself in the centuries-old tradition. It was in this very department sitting cross legged on the floor for hours that he burnished his skill, experimented, explored and pushed the boundaries of this art form. He now imparts that same skill and wisdom to a new generation of artists at the very same institution as a professor or an ‘ustaad’.
In his own landscape paintings, Qureshi’s floral vocabulary is intertwined with motifs from the Basholi or Kangra schools. These images can be read as being rife with social or political overtones of violence when created in the early decades of this century, but these can now also be interpreted as environmental or ecological tropes. As Qureshi keeps delving back to the tradition of the old masters such as Bihzad or Manohar he also takes this art form to another scale as is observed with his large installations at The Sydney Biennale, The Singapore Biennale, MoMA Oxford, The Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or at the Washington National Cathedral where he uses those foliate forms along with gestural abstractions to create dramatic and immersive installations which have garnered a plethora of awards and critical acclaim.
The large scale works he creates are excavated from those very gargantuan installations. The two works by Imran Qureshi that are featured in this auction are from the very same series. The work titled ‘Opening Word of This New Scripture’, 2019 seemingly appears like the pages of a manuscript with the scarlet leitmotif of foliate vocabulary interspersed with the drips and splatters of gestural abstraction. The second work ‘Fabric of Heaven’, 2020, makes use of the same imagery but the work changes as Qureshi introduces gilding to create a paradoxical representation of violence against the use of the gold leaf as representation of eternity or heaven.
The funds that are being raised via this auction will be used for the purchase of audio-visual equipment for performance arts and associated extra-curricular activities at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. The National College of Arts was set up in 1875 by the British Raj as a school focused on the arts of the sub-continent but with a British style curriculum. The school was formerly known as the Mayo School of Industrial Arts. It was the second art institution in the sub-continent subsequent to the JJ School of Arts in Bombay. Sir Lockwood Kipling (the father of Rudyard Kipling) was the first principal, and the first curator of the adjacent Lahore Museum. The NCA sits at the center of any conversation about the genesis of Pakistan’s art history. The institution has unparalleled heritage with principals such as Dr Shakir Ali and Salima Hashmi, to teachers such as Zahoor-ul-Akhlaque, Bashir Ahmed and Imran Qureshi, as well as illustrious students such as Shahzia Sikander, Imran Qureshi, Rashid Rana, Aisha Khalid and Khadim Ali.
At the NCA, students receive a rigorous education in a diverse range of disciplines such as fine art, design, printmaking, architecture and miniature painting. It is the only institution in the world which confers a Bachelor of Arts in miniature painting. Along with this rigorous art training, the students also participate in two festivals each year. Imran Qureshi heads the committee for these festivals as he understands the importance of these non-academic activities in honing the artist and providing him or her with a diverse range of experiences. He recalls himself as a student, when after the rigor of the miniature painting department, his creativity would flourish as he participated in extra-curricular events such as drama and puppet theatre.
Taking the mantle of the ‘ustaad’ (teacher) very seriously, Qureshi determined that he needed to use his role as a teacher in helping the institution become even more robust in providing creative opportunities to students. As the NCA is a publicly funded university and the tuition fee is low for students, funds for extra-curricular activities can fall short. He has therefore decided to graciously donate the entire proceeds of the sale of these two paintings to the National College of Arts to purchase audio-visual equipment for the college so there are avenues for creativity for the students outside of the classroom as well.
This generous donation by Imran Qureshi will provide avenues for further exploration and ideation to the next generation of artists at this seminal institution.
Amna Tirmizi Naqvi
Amna Naqvi is the co-founder of AAN Collection and the AAN Foundation. She is an art collector, philanthropist, publisher and a supporter of art projects and initiatives, which has led to the development of the Pakistani contemporary art space, locally as well as globally for about twenty years. Works from the collection have been exhibited and published extensively in over fifty global institutions.