Waqas Khan

Waqas Khan

Waqas Khan (°1982, Akhterabad) is a visual artist who expresses himself with multi-layered mediums including drawings and installations. Growing up in a rural setting in Pakistan’s far south, Khan reflected heavily upon social associations, communal history, memories, and related narratives—a reflection that prompted a move to Lahore where he graduated as a printmaker from the National College of Arts in 2008.

Khan's large-scale minimalist drawings consist of forms and compositions that are laboriously built up through repetition and markmaking as a technique. His minuscule dots, lines, and dashes resemble mysterious scripts in some works and echo the celestial expanse in other compositions. Khan's work is informed by the cosmos, the primordial, and a desire to recreate a unique sensorial experience of space.

In a political and cultural world dominated by discursive violence, his work feels like a breath of fresh air, a tabula rasa. This is especially the case for an artist who comes from a region that through a Western scope has often been equated with turbulence and unrest. The reading of contemporary Pakistani practices has therefore been highly influenced by these perceptions. This made the use of nonrepresentational idioms like the ones used by Khan less evident. The idea of the work as a clean slate opens up the possibility for endless, yet well-defined interpretations. It creates a breeding ground for non-violent and community-driven engagement. His paintings and drawings encompass an infinite spectrum, from a macro level—with inspiration drawn from the cosmos, the void, and the primordial—to the micro-level world of atoms, molecules, and biomes hidden from the naked eye—and the aesthetic and intuitive logic that are shared by both. His work is very human on the one hand, referencing cross-culturally by bridging eras and regions, and transcendent on the other, with worlds appearing and disappearing in the finite accumulation of dots and lines that make up his canvases.

Khan’s creation process is deliberate and painstakingly slow. Traditionally he makes his drawings on thick wasli paper like what was used in Mughal-era painting, while his large-scale works are made on cotton canvases. These are meticulously sanded down, up to the point where the texture almost mimics that of the wasli paper. This thin and fragile canvas provides the perfect surface for Khan to start the meditative repetition that constitutes his work, following an almost childlike intuition. The weeks and months spent in the studio form the boundless shapes of his exhibitions. The works’ complexity is comparable to that of a bird’s eye view of the ocean: endless ripples and waves seemingly interlock in a chaotic amalgam that is impossible to decipher. However, this seemingly overwhelming inconceivability, which feels bigger than life, evokes a soothing feeling, an everlasting calm.

Artists: Waqas Khan

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