Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi’s rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened to the public on Tuesday.
A response to the bombings and violence in Pakistan, Qureshi’s work, commissioned by the Met for its Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, occupies some 8,000-square-feet and “presents the first large-scale installation in the United States by the artist,” says the museum. “The sources for the lush patterns that sprout from his spills of paint are the detailed works on paper that he makes in the style of the miniaturists who worked for the Mughal court.”
Violence in Pakistan began shaping Qureshi’s art nearly three years ago, leading him to use blood-red acrylic paint. The Met installation, “The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi,” features splatters of red paint morphing into filigreed patterns common in Mughal miniatures.
“These forms stem from the effects of violence,” Qureshi is quoted as saying on the Met’s website. “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.”
He adds: “The dialogue between life and death is an important element in my work. Leaves and nature, for example, represent the idea of life. And the particular color of red that I have been using in recent years can look so real, like blood. The red reminds me of the situation today in my country, Pakistan, and in the world around us, where violence is almost a daily occurrence. But somehow, people still have hope. The flowers that seem to emerge from the red paint in my work represent the hope that—despite everything—the people sustain somehow, their hope for a better future.”
The installation conveys a message of “recovery and regeneration,” says the museum. “Within the strictures of this ancient [Mughal-era form], Qureshi continues to find remarkable room to experiment,” says the Met. “In his exquisite miniatures, the artist pairs richly detailed landscapes with figures in modern dress, images of contemporary life in Pakistan, or portraits of himself at work.” For Qureshi “miniatures are a vehicle for conveying complex political references within the parameters of their small dimensions and refined imagery.”
“We are proud to present this extraordinary new commission,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met. “For years, Imran Qureshi has created emotionally-wrought, thought-provoking installations devoted to themes of tragedy and regeneration, reflecting conditions that prevail almost as a way of life in his home country.”
“His artistic practice oscillates between the discipline and reinvention of the miniature format, and the expansive scale of architectural spaces,” said Sheena Wagstaff, the Met’s chairman of modern and contemporary art. “His works are wonderfully complex at the same time as appearing quite simple: they reckon with the unfortunate realities of political ideologies while reveling in the ability of paint and color to depict and actively stimulate regeneration.” Wagstaff conceived the “The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi” and an accompanying 64-page publication of the same name.
“Flooding his chosen sites with acrylic, the artist then works the paint into thickets of ornamental leaves with foliate patterns that evoke the luxuriant walled gardens of the Mughals—a ubiquitous subject in historic miniatures,” says the museum. “The blooms also echo the verdant foliage of Central Park—a green space conceived in the nineteenth century to function as a site of respite and tranquility in the midst of the chaotic and cacophonous city.”
The installation is a first of its kind for the Met. No other artist has painted onto the Met’s roof before. The museum encourages visitors to walk on the installation as they survey it.
The Hyderabad-born, National College of Arts-trained painter was named Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” earlier this year. He teaches miniature painting at Lahore’s NCA, and has exhibited his works around the world.
Qureshi’s rooftop exhibition runs through Nov. 3.