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New North and South: Waqas Khan

Arts Illustrated 21st Dec 2017

A review of Lahore-based artist Waqas Khan’s solo exhibition titled ‘Khushamdeed’ at the Manchester Art Gallery that is on until February 25, 2018 .

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Waqas Khan, Installation at Manchester Art Gallery. Photographs by Michael Pollard. All images Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery, the artist and Sabrina Amrani Gallery.

An unusual sign can now be spotted at the entrances of three of Manchester’s biggest art institutions. Visitors to the Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth Art Gallery, and the Manchester Museum will now be greeted to a neon sign, reading out the word ‘Khushamdeed’ (meaning: welcome) in Urdu calligraphic script. Waqas Khan, the Lahore-based artist who created the public artwork, chose this word for its significance and popularity in the Indo-Persian vocabulary. Its literal meaning is to salute a newcomer with kindness, to receive and entertain hospitably and cheerfully, and to welcome a visitor or a new idea. It represents the liberating feel of anonymity and a judgment-free passage, where there is no discrimination or distinction. By placing it on the outside of the buildings, Khan simply wanted to extend the notion of hospitality and welcome to all of Manchester’s residents and visitors. ‘While I was walking in this city, I felt these buildings don’t get the attention of the local communities, especially Asians or Arabic people. With Khushamdeed, I am looking to activate the buildings, welcoming people to go inside the structures and see the artworks of different artists. Just one simple word can make a huge difference,’ Khan explained.

Arts Illustrated

Waqas Khan, Installation at Manchester Art Gallery. Photographs by Michael Pollard. All images Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery, the artist and Sabrina Amrani Gallery.

Khushamdeed was created as part of Waqas Khan’s first solo exhibition in Britain. Presented at the Manchester Art Gallery, the show seeks to achieve a whole lot more than just opening up communities to new possibilities. It carries with it a subtle yet unmistakable message of love; of Khan’s own desires to find connections that bleed beyond the tip of his pen and the edges of his canvases. Produced in a trance-like state, his minimalist drawings resemble webs and celestial expanses. Using small dashes and minuscule dots, his large-scale, monochromatic works are composed in red, blue, white or black ink. ‘The reason I make art is to connect. Luckily, I draw out this language which is quite universal. It has no boundaries. When people viewing my art get connected to it, then they have inquiries. I don’t give them the freedom to just have answers in three seconds. They get trapped and they really look at the work and find different things. I think that is a success – when you somehow feel connected to everybody,’ added Khan.

Waqas Khan’s exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery opened on September 30, along with exhibitions by Risham Syed, Neha Choksi, Hetain Patel and Mehreen Murtaza. The exhibitions are part of the ‘New North and South’ programme that marks the 70th anniversary of the independence of India, Pakistan and, later, Bangladesh. Alongside the exhibitions, there are concerts, performances, and events for families and adults celebrating the shared heritage of the North of England and South Asia.

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