Research: Idris Khan



  • “Khan employs a continual process of creation and erasure, adding layers upon layers, concealing and revealing to explore ideas around time, memory, creativity and spirituality”
    • “uses techniques of layering to arrive at what might be considered the essence of an image, and to create something entirely new through repetition and superimposition
    • “[…] while retaining traces of what has gone before
    • similar to the processes of the brain while encoding (sensory) information from their surroundings, through a process of repetition and motion
      • the act of creating and erasing forms an essential part of the encoding and thought processes – the brain goes back and forth between the pieces of information (sensory information included) that it receives, in order to organise it and make sense of it
        • I will add that by information I don’t simply mean the information from the outside, but also from within our neuronal system – memory, associations etc. – referring to the “traces of what has gone before” – because every new memory, observation and thought is laid/created upon a saturated surface – meaning that we don’t start with a clean slate and use what we have retrieved//collected from the past
    • taking time into consideration is also essential – by visualising this repetitive process, I think it is crucial to attempt to include time as a production factor – not only allowing the image/artwork to change with time (recognising similarities in the works of the mind), but also visualising/representing it as part of the thought-formation process
  • “intricate process […] until his work is a blurred composite, offering a condensation of time into a single point that fluctuates between representation and abstraction
    • as pointed out in my previous comment – time and motion are two important factors in the process of perceiving, thinking and encoding
    • representation and abstraction – when images merge together – presumably still images/information we intake in that moment and time – with the juxtaposing moving images, both taken from the environment around us, as well as of our memories – on top of that, we have to consider the relationship between all those snippets of information that find their way to agree to one idea
      • this relationship – and its ‘glue’ – is very dynamic and unsettling – and hence what I produce in my work will naturally attain similar visual attributes to Khan’s work – shifting, altering, movement, change, reversing, tracing, going forward etc.
  • “investigates […] the layering of experience
    • as mentioned before – today’s experience is layered on the foundation of past’s experiences and knowledge – hence, even if my work portrays the repetition of current retrieval/encoding/memory processes, I also attempt to imply that past experiences make their way there as well – this could either enhance the meaning of the artwork (especially for myself as the artist/producer) or confuse (causing blurring, inaccurate mixing of information that doesn’t form a consecutive/coherent image)
  • “Khan appears to suggest that our linear experience of time and place has a more shadowy relationship with memory and the subconscious, and that they cannot be so easily grasped.”
  • “early fascination with photography’s inherent relationship to painting and the exploration of an expanded sense of time
    • disregarding and challenging the idea of LINEAR TIME – especially when it comes to the existence of objects in the time and place suggested by the mind
  • “The density and precision of his images allude to the excess of information in the technical age, while encouraging a slower and more engaged way of looking and responding”
    • visualising the mind, as a subject working with too much information – over-saturated with information – SATURATED PHENOMENA – unable to piece the information into something with a coherent meaning – the blurring, displacing, shifting and repetition could try to explain/visualise this process – where the image received by its recipient isn’t fully clear – allowing key elements to pierce through the cloud formed by everything else


“I say bollocks to that—for me, it’s my tool, my paintbrush if you like, and lets me create my own visual language.” – Khan referring to photography

  • photographs – staccato photography
  • “digitally layered and super-imposed giving the effect of an impressionistic drawing or blurred film still”
  • “takes photographs of photographs and sandblasts hundreds of minute lines of text on to marble and steel”
  • “his work is about exploring the deeper meaning buried in lines of writing, which he distils until they reveal some new truth
  • “His photographs possess characteristics more akin to drawing or painting and are presented as a kind of palimpsest, animated by the accumulative intervention of the artist’s hand.”
  • “Receiving international acclaim for his minimal, yet emotionally charged photographs, videos and sculptures”
    • the emotional aspect of his work conveys personhood and individuality of experience – the fact that the blurring and repetition bring an impressionistic effect would be useful in conveying one’s state of mind


  • “developed a unique narrative involving densely layered imagery that inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration and speaks to the themes of history, cumulative experience and the metaphysical collapse of time into single moments.”
    • cumulating the points I have made beforehand – CHALLENGING THE CONCEPT OF LINEAR TIME when it comes to experiencing and conveying the existence and workings of the mind
  • “They had a kind of mystery. It is part of Khan’s technique: he will photograph and re-photograph until there is only a trace of the original left”
  • “I think, this sense of profundity that has given him a certain celebrity…You understand when you see it that it contains human aspiration and anxiety, a sort of secular take on religion.”
  • On his Qur-an pieces: “I can’t ignore the influences, the repetition – there has to be a connection to my early life. The way you read the Qur’an is a page a week. The same word, the same page. Someone came to the house every week to teach me.”





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