Lost in Language, Idris Khan’s contradictory worlds. By Eddy Frankel
Whether it’s the gasometers by Bernd and Hilla Becher, stamp poems, or Turner’s sea pieces—everything in the work of the London-based artist Idris Khan is a ghostly depiction. Eddy Frankel talked to him about identity, doubt, and painting.
For most of the year, urban England is a damp, miserable, gray expanse. It’s a gloomy, often desolate country—and few contemporary British artists reflect that feeling in their work quite as strongly as Idris Khan. Spectral industrial shapes, illegible ramblings, ghostly human figures, all of these are repeated endlessly in Khan’s somber, and often very beautiful, paintings and pictures. It not only makes sense that Khan’s work is made in England, it’s possible that it could only have been created here.
But sometimes, England can be beautiful. When the sun shines on London’s streets, few cities are as picturesque. It’s on one of these all-too-rare sun-soaked days that I find Khan standing outside his Stoke Newington studio, basking in the spring warmth with a handful of assistants. He bounds up to me, places a hand on my shoulder, and shows me around the space he shares with his wife, the artistAnnie Morris. Not only is Khan perfectly and schoolboyishly polite, he’s also energetic and positively joyful. It’s an odd dichotomy—you expect him to be quiet and serious like his work, just like you expect England to be gray and miserable. But here I am, sitting talking about football in the glorious sunshine with one of the loveliest, cheeriest artists you could hope to meet...