Idris Khan

Photographs and Drawings
November 17, 2012 − January 9, 2013

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in London in 2004, Idris Khan has created a distinctive body of photographic and video work distinguished by its impressive resolve. Using the methods of digi­tal manipulation available today,  Khan explores in­ termedial relations in the digital age and references a diverse array of artifacts from throughout cultural history. Bach and Beethoven scores serve as referenc­es alongside Caravaggio paintings and the photogra­phy of Bernd and Hilla Becher. In a blend of appro­priation and artistic creation of the new, the artist su­perimposes digital reproductions over one another and compresses them into a single image. The trans­parency of the individual layers causes the original work to fade into the background. Merely traces and shadows remain on the photographic surface, deny­ing legibility.

In recent  years, Khan has begun using his own material and has turned increasingly toward drawing and sculpture. The point of origin of his new pieces, of which Galerie Thomas Schulte will show about 17, was a photograph by Cy Twombly from the 1960s, depicting one of his “blackboard paintings.” In a continuation of Abstract Expressionism, Twombly applied  his scriptural drawings in chalk onto a slate­ like surface.

Inspired by Twombly’s snapshot, Idris Khan documented his own scriptural drawings onto chalkboard. Like Twombly, Khan’s method of draw­ing also refuses legibility to the deciphering gaze of the  observer, his lines and loops also remain with­ in the drawings’ code. The resulting photographic work, produced with Khan’s characteristic meth­od of layering images, bears traces of still recognizable signs, as much as their immediate eradication. Through digital layering, the digital reproductions, which have come into existence over a period of time, are transferred into a state of simultaneity by Khan’s drawing process. The idea of linear time appears to be suspended here. Khan’s rhythmically interwoven sign codes superimpose themselves one over another and condense, they conceal each other, as if they at­ tempted to render the written text illegible. The large-scale wall piece designated to be realized in the gallery’s Corner Space also addresses the themes of message encoding and writing as a me­dium of storing knowledge. The script, applied by stamp in radiating trajectories, is layered so as to ren­der the actual text difficult to decipher. Frequently employing Islamic scripture in his earlier work, the artist has turned to the late medieval theologian Master Eckhart to complete this series. The circular form of the repetitively applied writing correlates to the Dominican’s treatment of time and eternity in his texts.

Artist Profile