British artist Idris Khan (b. 1978) is mining the history of literature and music and creating beautiful works of art with his composite photography. His interests lay in works with a collective cultural history, so his sources of inspiration are found in Freud’s notes, the Koran, Beethoven’s piano scores, Schubert’s piano sonatas, Chopin’s Nocturnes and Bach’s suites for cello. I personally find his works using music scores to be the most alluring and much like the works by Mark Rothko, I find myself hypnotized and staring at them for minutes on end.
The superb images in Khan’s composite photography are made from many documents of the same theme. For example, Khan will take all of Chopin’s Nocturnes and scan each one (think of layers) and then manipulate each one’s opacity and placement, paying close attention to how they align and/or how a particular mark is accentuated as the images are arranged. After they’re all “stacked up” he works on the formed image itself removing lines that distract the eye from what he wants to show.
So imagine what would it sound like if you could hear every note of Chopin’s Nocturnes at the same time, or see each page of his Nocturne scores at once. The latter is is what Idris Khan gives to us as fine art rather than a cold photo of sheet music. The images are so painterly that even though you find yourself identifying a musical note or symbol, you quickly realize that what you’re in front of is not a photo nor a single score but fine art that uses photography as its medium.
Khan’s music score composite photography has a certain energy that draws me into them: they’re chaotic and nervous and yet meditative and beautiful. It’s art that gives pleasure every time you look at it because you find yourself discovering elements in the humming visual that you had not seen before. And that’s art worth owning.
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city
image credits: Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Yvon Lambert Gallery and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York who represent the artist.