It is significant that Imran Mir’s exhibitions were each numerically titled “Papers on Modern Art” ending posthumously with his “12th Paper on Modern Art”. His aesthetic style, informed by his exposure to art and artists especially during his stay in North America in the early ’70s, allowed him to carve his own niche and he may be considered part of alternative or rather parallel histories of Pakistani art.
An inspection of the artist’s work illustrates the importance of form and object — that is at once introspective and quiet, yet brash and bold. The primal geometrical figures — the orb and the cube, draw upon their deep association to creation as building blocks, that lead to larger more complex arrangements.
Mir experimented with technology and computers in order to create new works and thus establish conversations between machine and man in the early ’90s, a fact that is often overlooked in many artistic discourses. His relationship to graphic design, (connected to his education, as well as the company he set up Circuit FCB) is paramount in his work where one sees the artist grappling with space and colour in groundbreaking terms. Throughout his practice, we see a particular focus on primary colours like blue, yellow and red. In the beginning the formulations are tighter and more precise — strict lines, triangles, circles and squares. Later, with time, they loosen their boundaries, evolve organically, become freer and float away even.
The artist seems to be concerned with many questions — there is the question of spirituality. Is he depicting the large reality of the cosmos with what can be termed orbits surrounding it and objects seeking to break free from entrapment? Does the fragmentation of object and form in his work point to something not quite ‘perfect’ and lead us to a discussion on chaos and disorder?
Viewers of art, determined to look at social, political contexts in his work might be hard pressed to see such linkages. The reality is that the artist himself was supremely concerned with form for the sake of form, interested in the shape itself and in allowing the viewer to become fully absorbed and engaged in the work.
Imran Mir may have left us very recently but his influence continues to be documented and showcased. The artist’s legacy lies in his ability to shock, confuse and enchant his viewers, as we search for meaning and identity within his practice.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 8th, 2015