Art Dubai: Idris Khan speaks about his Victoria Miro exhibit

Seven Times installation by Idris Khan. Here it is shown at Victoria Miro Gallery in London but it will be part of Art Dubai, 2015. Courtesy: Idris Khan/Victoria Miro
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Idris Khan, who produces beautiful and densely rich layered works inspired by history and literature is another artist showing a solo show at the art fair. Victoria Miro a prominent gallery from London, will show a solo booth of his work at Art Dubai. Khan has a large photographic show opening at the gallery in April and later in the year he is also installing a commission for the American Embassy in Islamabad, has a group show in India curated by Jane Neel, and an enormous solo show at Sean Kelly in New York. We caught up with him ahead of his busy few months.

Anna Seaman: Will the solo booth in Art Dubai contain some of the pieces from your new show opening in May at Victoria Miro?

Idris Khan: I will not be exhibiting the new photographs, which will be on show at the end of April at Victoria Miro Gallery . At Art Dubai I will be showing four new stamp painting works – two large panels and two works on paper. The large panels consist of a gesso ground made with black pigment, rabbit skin glue and slate dust. One of the panels will be blue and black ink with Arabic writing influenced by Ibn Sina, and on the other panel it'll be English text that is influenced by Agnes Martin and Frederik Nietsche. Mirroring these will be the works on paper that have been screen printed to allow the surface to absorb the oil based ink. I will also be exhibiting part of a sculpture I made in 2010 called Seven Times that was recently shown in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. This work is based on the Kabba in Mecca and was made at a very difficult emotional time after I lost my mother.

AS: Your work always involves layers and repetition of imagery or text. In a way, this could be seen as an allegory for the modern world with the saturation of image and information. Is this part of your concept?

IK: Personally I don't see the works as an allegory for the modern world, I see them as an escape from the modern world; a meditative exploration of the mind. One could argue that due to the free availability of information that there is no escape from over saturation. The studio and art can be a very safe place.

AS: What do you hope a viewer can extract from your work?

IK: When the viewer looks at a piece of my work I want them to question time, I want them to be deceived as to whether they are looking at a photograph or a painting, I want them to be captured within its repetition, I would like them to feel calm, and above all I want them to feel its workmanship. In the stamp paintings, the viewer is forced into an abstraction because they only see the start of the sentence and the end, therefore they never fully read the entire passage of writing - they are left to find their own journey through the painting.

AS: How important do you think Art Dubai is on the international calendar? What do you think makes it different from other fairs or indeed other regional art centres?

IK: I have been exhibiting at Art Dubai right from the very start. I was also commissioned by the fair to create images for the Global Art Forum book. From its creation I have seen it grow into becoming a well organised, important art fair for the Middle East and its artists. I have spoken to many dealers, artists and visitors and they've always expressed how well managed the entire fair is and the quality of work exhibited. On a personal level it has been excellent to reach a different collector base and viewers for the works. I am sad I can't be there this year but glad that I am represented well by Victoria Miro Gallery. It feels different from other fairs because it feels incredibly optimistic and there is a real high energy towards the buzz of collecting and talking about art - especially thanks to the Global Art Forum.

* Art Dubai takes place from Wednesday to Saturday (March 18-21) at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. For more info visit