If you are like me, you might not have realized how closely Imran Qureshi’s installation on this roof of the Met this summer is connected to the tradition of miniature painting in South Asia. Certainly the red splatters remind one more immediately of Jackson Pollock, as well as of bloodstains, even if the suggestion of violence felt somehow unreal when seen over the trees of Central Park. When I saw the Pakistani artist’s more traditionally realized miniature painting below, it clicked into place for me.
Qureshi’s 2011 miniature on traditional wasli paper, Blessings on the Land of My Love, uses the same splattered motif as the roof garden, only organized around the drainage grate on an interior courtyard. Blessings Upon the Land of My Love was also a 2011 site-specific installation at the Sharjah Biennial 10 that used this red vegetal patterning to take on the architectural structure. The miniature on paper suggests that Qureshi sees the same vision whether writ small or large, and that moving the miniature off the page and putting it in dialogue with architecture still retains some essence of the miniature. In fact, considering the installation in closer relation to miniature painting allows one to see both how Qureshi employed formal elements of his traditional miniature training, in the Pahari style foliage, and even to connect it with the Mughal practice of employing pictorial artists to decorate their palaces with large wall paintings in addition to illustrating books. In a sense, miniature painting is a medium that the artist works through, rather than resides in.