Idris Khan

Idris Khan is a London, UK-based artist who creates densely layered images, with themes of cumulative experience and the collapsing of time into single moments. He uses a camera or scanner to reproduce his source imagery and uses Photoshop to digitally build up layers, controlling for opacity and contrast. The final products are often large-scale C-prints that have an almost painterly or charcoal drawing-like appearance. In one of his earliest series, he superimposed every one of the Becher’s “typology” photographs, condensing the experience of the individual layered works into a blur. In Struggling to Hear, After Ludwig von Beethoven’s Sonatas, Khan layers pages from Beethoven’s sonatas, creating a final image that acts as a compression of music, a time-based media, into a single moment. One experiences the photograph not as a frozen moment, but as an image made up of many moments simultaneously. In Every… Page of the Holy Qur’an, he condenses the experience of the separate pages into a single moment – he whole can be seen in an instant, but the sheer density of information provided creates an unreadable distillation. Khan describes this as “a fantasy and a nightmare rolled into one” – having the ability to take in an entire book in an instant, but never understanding what it has to say. It could be argued that in terms of practicality, this whole is not greater than the sum of its parts as it is impossible to understand – but it could also be seen as “condensing” the power of this cultural text into a single potent image.


Every… Bernd and Hilla Becher Gable Sided Houses. 2004


Struggling to Hear… After Ludwig von Beethoven’s Sonatas. 2005



Every… Page of the Holy Qu’ran. 2005



 “Artist’s Profile – Idris Khan.” Saatchi Gallery. Web. 24 Oct 2012.

  • artist’s profile, with his Becher homage works, at the Saatchi Gallery website.

Dyer, Geoff. “Between the lines.” Guardian. 2008: n. page. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.

  • in-depth discussion of Khan’s conceptual and technical approaches.

“Idris Khan – Artist Biography.” Sean Kelly Gallery. Web. 24 Oct 2012.

  • artist’s biography at the Sean Kelly Gallery website.

“Idris Khan – Exhibitions.” Victoria Miro Gallery. Web. 24 Oct 2012.

  • description with images of Khan’s solo show at the Victoria Miro Gallery, which ran from September 2-30, 2006.

“Idris Khan (b.1978) – Struggling to Hear… After Ludwig von Beethoven’s Sonatas.” Christie’s. N.p., 11 2008. Web. 24 Oct 2012.

  • lot description for the sale of one of Khan’s Struggling to Hear… prints, sold in 2008.

Khan, Idris. Interview by Leo Benedictus. “My best shot.” The Guardian. 2 2007. Web. 20 Oct 2012.

  • an interview with Khan about his Qu’ran work and its personal meaning.

 Khan, Idris. Interview by Natalie Hanman. “‘A lot of art people hate Photoshop… bollocks to that’.” The Guardian. 31 2007. Web. 20 Oct 2012.

  • an interview with Khan about his Photoshop techniques.

 “Press Release.” Victoria Miro Gallery. Web. 27 Oct 2012.

  • press release announcing Khan’s first solo show and describing his work.


 A link to my “Delicious” list of all the resources I have used for the A3 and Final projects, including the above research, as well as GIF tutorials and other artists working with GIFs or long exposures.




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