I spent yesterday morning interviewing the artist Idris Khan for a radio programme 'Rembrandt Today' (to be broadcast at 11.30 am on 26th October on BBC Radio 4 - the interview with Idris is at the end of the programme). His first solo, exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery, is just coming to an end. The pretext for the interview was a composite image of Rembrandt built from every Rembrandt self-portrait digitally superimposed. This image at first glance looks like a vignetted soft-edged late self-portrait, but look at it for a minute or so and the younger self-portraits start emergering in a succession of aspect-shifts, as if it were a video of the images.
Born in 1978 Khan's work already demonstrates maturity and musicality. He works by building up images by scanning series of images on top of each other, much as the 19th century French photographer Batut had done. So, for example, Khan scanned every page of a modern version of J.S. Bach's cello sonatas to produce an image in which ghostly clusters of notes are visible, but which blend into abstraction. Indeed, the three large monochrome musically-inspired pieces which hang as a triptych in the exhibition share underlying proportions with Rothko's Seagram murals - a conscious influence for the artist. Another visible link is to finely patterned Islamic carpets - Khan was brought up as a Muslim. Most illustrations fail to do justice to the subtle textures of these large-scale prints.
Khan has taken his project one step further by making a video piece, currently on show at INIVA (until 22nd October). For this he extracted three minutes of each of the six Bach cello suites and overlayered both the musical sounds and moving images of the cellists hands and bow. Filmed in black and white, the effect at times is close to Moholy-Nagy's abstract film-making (again, a conscious allusion). The sound, although abstracted and overlayered is surprisingly musical and rhythmic. Snatches of familiar motifs are audible, but new dissonances too. In making the film, Khan used the rhythms he'd recorded from his father, a Muslim, praying. The film is mesmerising.