A curved expanse drifting into darkness and  miniature illuminations are interspersed with red flowers dripping blood.


This is the Barbican’s latest show in its curving backroom space, where art sometimes has queues around the block for something that captures people’s imagination, or as now, maybe not.

Yet. this display, by Imran Qureshi has a curious delight to it.

The artist, who was born in Pakistan learnt an ancient technique of miniature painting that was developed back in the 16th century, using brushed made from squirrel-hair.

Each of the small paintings are abstract landscapes close up, which unsurprisingly, remind a person strongly of Islamic art of what is our medieval period. Very Arabian Nights, if you ever had a copy that was illustrated.


What lifts the collection of small paintings to another level that turns the visit into an experience is how the room has also been decorated. Begone with boring austere white galleries, make the space part of the art.

Here, the space starts moderately well lit, and dotted around the floor and dripping down the walls are what at a distance look like explosions of blood, but are upon closer inspection found to be red flowers, dripping blood.


Adding to the effect is how the paintings glow, as if backlit like stained glass windows, but are illumined from above, casting a square block of reflected light on the ground below.

It’s a question though, with painting on the floor, and splatters liberally in-between where a person should walk. Can you walk over the art to get closer to the other art?

A question which becomes increasingly academic as the atmosphere darkens around the curve, and you struggle to see where to step safely, eventually dropping the pretense and walking over art barely seen in the dark.


Imran Qureshi’s Where the Shadows are so Deep is at The Barbican until 10th July. Entry is free.


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