Skip to content
Idris Khan in #InDetail

#InDetail with Idris Khan’s work Time Signature, 2020

Drawing on diverse cultural sources including literature, art, music and religion, Idris Khan has developed a unique narrative involving densely layered imagery that inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration and speaks to themes of history, cumulative experience and the metaphysical collapse of time into single moments. 

Khan repeatedly stamps texts specific to each work onto heavily gessoed aluminum panels, ultimately eradicating the meaning of the original text to construct an abstract and universal visual language. While he does not often disclose details about the texts he uses in his work, for this painting, he was reading and thinking about poetry by Margaret Atwood, the Canadian novelist, poet, essayist, and environmental activist. 

Through this minimal presentation of repetitive gestures, the blocks of text stamped onto the surface using oil based ink shift across each painting, creating a rhythm from one work to the next. The density and precision of Khan’s compositions, defined by his technique of imposing multiple layers of text upon one another, allude to the excessive proliferation of information in the technical age, whilst simultaneously advocating for a slower, more considered way of looking. Retaining traces of what has gone before or what has been left behind, Khan’s works speak to a layering of experience that harbors palimpsests of the past whilst suggesting entirely new possibilities. In recent works, such as Time Signature, the color blue has become a major protagonist, mapping an emotional context onto images that compress into a single frame, layering passages of experience and time.

Idris Khan, Time Signature, 2020, oil based ink on gesso and aluminum panel, framed: 100 x 69 11/16 x 2 inches