Blue Rhythms is concerned with the passage of time. Through sculpture, painting and photography the exhibition investigates how time is demarcated through textual, musical, spatial and visual languages, and how these demarcations shape the concepts of time which hum in the background of daily life and form frameworks for philosophical and scientific thought. The works on display create time and space for visitors to reflect on how we process time, and the relationship between temporality, meaning and material.
Despite the extensive and sophisticated ways in which humans communicate time, the phenomenon will always remain beyond human articulation. As such, articulations of time are artifacts of the tension between the known, defined and manageable and the unknown: the spiritual, the multidimensional, the infinite.
Idris Khan in his studio
Throughout Blue Rhythms Khan deploys a number of recurring themes and motifs through which he explores time. Repetition and limitation are important shaping forces in the show. Notably, all works on display are constrained by a palette of shades of blue; this constriction enables Khan to communicate more powerfully, and examine with more clarity, the excessive proliferation of messages in contemporary society and how it relates to our sense of time. It also brings the powerful emotions and associations linked with the colour blue to bear on Khan’s practice, which usually is limited to monochrome.
Imprecision of Feelings (detail), 2019
The palimpsest, multilayered document and record of the passage of time, is another key influence in the exhibition; many of the works on display layer text, sound and image. In one series of paintings texts written by the artist are stamped repeatedly over one another, obscuring the meaning of the text while creating new meaning through collisions, overlapping and abstraction. In another work titled my mother, 59 years, the artist layered every photograph he had of his late mother and cast the roughly 360 photos in jesmonite. The result is an abstract monument, a comment on the transitory nature of life and on image-making and record-keeping as powerful, yet ephemeral, artifacts of life. A parallel work will be installed in London later in 2019, this time made with photographs taken by Khan over the past five years.
“There’s been this explosion of image-making in the last few years. It seems like they’re taking the place of memories. After my mother died, I looked back at her albums and searched for every picture of her that I could find. I could only find 380 photographs. That was fascinating to me. She lived for 59 years and we’re left with this pile of pictures. I wanted to give an idea of the volume of space and time that these photos are occupying” - Idris Khan, interview with msn lifestyle
Blue Rhythms is at Sean Kelly Gallery, 475 Tenth Avenue, New York NY 10018 until 22 June.
Top image: The Calm is but a Wall, 2019.