The Miniature, Mystical Cosmologies of Waqas Khan
Pakistani artist Waqas Khan, a man measuring over six feet tall, makes compositions from nearly microscopic gestures. This scale shift is immense, uncanny, and throws into relief the meditative, mystical effects of Khan’s mind-bending geometric drawings, on view this fall at Madrid’s Sabrina Amrani Gallery.
Trained in the traditional practice of Persian miniature painting, Khan channels Sufi mysticism and sacred geometry into a body of work built from an ever-amassing constellation of dots, lines, and half-circles measuring less than a centimeter each. The mostly black-and-white works in his current exhibition, “The Untitled Show,” are achieved by applying permanent ink from a fine-tipped pen to traditional Wasli paper, an approach to materials and color that is spare and almost ascetic. With the trance-like focus of a yogi or shaman, Khan syncopates his meticulous mark-making through measured, concentrated breathing.
In this way, Khan constructs ethereal and inalterable webs that suggest otherworldly infinities. In his excellent, large-scale The Breath of the Compassionate IV (2014), Khan weaves a kind of metaphysical venn diagram. The crosshatched common ground of the two interlocking white circles (forged from a system of tiny undulating lines) is interrupted by a black hole suggesting a mysterious vortex of unknown proportions.
Similarly, Interruption II (2014) fuses geometric stability with organic volatility. At close glance, a sturdy rectangle reveals itself as a porous web of miniscule, perforated circles. The tiny marks multiply across the surface, revealing their individuality through varying densities, but ultimately coalescing as a mass that seems to be filling itself in, rather than falling apart.
A grouping of smaller scale pieces underlines the profound relationships between micro and macro, earthly and celestial, corporeal and transcendental that serve as the nexus of Khan’s practice. For these several-inch-long compositions, Khan zooms in on the small moments of growth and transition that effect big changes.
“The Untitled Show” is on view at Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, Sept. 11th–Oct. 31st, 2014.