May 15, 2013

Earthly Paradise

Miniature painting by Imran Qureshi

The Roof Garden 
Metropolitan Museum of Art

As the doors of the elevator opened on the 5th floor of the Met, I skipped off.  Continued walking at a fast clip the 25 feet it takes to reach the first stone pavers on the roof deck.  Was this the work of Imran Qureshi? Or was it the ghost of Jackson Pollack?  At first glance it looked like randomly thrown paint; on closer inspection pattern and intention made itself known. 

 In a small book published by the Met, Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Met compares Qureshi's work on the roof deck of Met, high above Central Park,  to his affinity and love of the Mughal garden.  Qureshi is a skillful practitioner of miniature painting.  For Qureshi, the gardens of paradise as a form conceptually relate to the "gardens" of Central Park.  Both spaces were created as retreats:  arenas of repose and relaxation.

Anyone who spends time in Central Park thinks of it as an earthly paradise.  It's the place you go "get away" from the city.  

This idyllic view is only part of the story of this piece.  Quershi started using red in response to the violence in his native Lahore.  "Yes, these forms stem from the effects of violence.  They are mingled with the color of blood, but at the same time, this is where a dialogue with life, with new beginnings and fresh hope starts."

Intellectually, I understand what Qureshi is saying.  My experience of the work is different.  When I wake up in the morning, things are a little blurry.  My distance vision needs correction.  I see the rough edges of things, but not their details.  Once I put my contacts in, clarity is the name of the game.  I see pattern and subtleties.  That is how I felt seeing Imran Qureshi's roof garden commission:  two stages of enlightenment and delight.


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