Magazine article Art Monthly

Idris Khan

Magazine article Art Monthly

Idris Khan

Article excerpt

Idris Khan Victoria Miro Gallery London September 2 to 30 inIVA London September 13 to October 22

Idris Khan's photographs are not what they seem. In fact most of them do not seem like photographs at all and instead resemble charcoal etchings, or pavement drawings, smudged and blurred by the rain. Yet despite appearances, Khan's works are created using very 21st-century methods, by rephotographing a series of existing images and digitally layering them to create a new, composite piece. In the past this has seen Khan create photographs that fuse an entire series of works by Bernd & Hilla Becher or Rembrandt, while in this new body of work he amasses all of Caravaggio's late paintings in one photograph, Caravaggio ... The Final Years, 2006, and turns Eadweard Muybridge's studies of the human body into ghostly resurrection scenes.

This clinical description of his methods does not really do Khan's work justice, however. It also implies that the work is somehow gimmicky, as if he has just hit on a neat trick that he can now apply ceaselessly to other found bodies of images, and this too would be rather missing the point. For somewhere between the obsessive cataloguing of the digital layers and the creation of the final work another force is revealed by Khan, reflecting both the original source material and his own intervention upon it. In Every ... Bernd & Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholder, 2004, the crisp shots of the sturdy, reliable gas tanks become a jittery, edgy conglomeration, humming with energy. His reproduction of Caravaggio's paintings (displayed with suitable gravitas in Victoria Miro's small project space, which has been painted red for the occasion) evokes a mass of tangled bodies and unlikely embraces, swirling around a red-hot centre. As with most of Kahn's works, it appears to be animated, separating and rejoining before our eyes.

Kahn has acknowledged the influence of the early typology movement on his art, and alongside the Muybridge works, he has also pillaged Karl Blossfeldt's catalogue of nature studies to create Blossfeldt ... After Karl Blossfeldt 'Art Forms in Nature', 2005. His interventions here seem to both empower the systematic images into becoming something more enigmatic as well as suggesting the futility of cataloguing. He has also photographed books, firstly capturing every page of the Koran, so it becomes a densely beautiful, if illegible, blend of lettering, before tackling the masters of modern photography, Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. …

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