Idris Khan is an artist whose favorite medium is paint. The only problem is, he's not a very good painter. Instead, he uses every other medium he can find to express his ideas. His exhibit, currently at Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space, surrounds viewers in a darkness with three projectors showing hands forming a piece of music as that music vibrates the air to create a beautiful melody. The display gives new meaning to immersion in art.
"I wanted to create a cacophony of sound, which at times might feel a little awkward, but if one sits and watches the mesmerizing imagery of the layered fingers then the sound becomes less important," Khan says of his exhibit, Last 3 Piano Sonatas ... after Franz Schubert.
Khan's fascination with Schubert stems from the fact that the composer "died extremely young and wrote this piece on his deathbed, unable to play the piano. What I found so interesting is that somehow without a piano in front of him he managed to visualize his fingers hitting the piano as he wrote."
Since Khan can't paint, the 31-year-old, London-based artist has mastered the use of layering black and white film frames to make abstract images that convey open-ended emotions and ideas rather than direct meaning. For Last 3 Piano Sonatas , Khan urges people to question what it is to die as an artistic genius.
"I think there is a clear sense of empathy, a fascination for what the labor of a lifetime might in fact represent ... knowing that these pieces were the last pieces made by someone before they left this earth gives the work much more importance."
Khan's fascination with deathbed works has spanned many projects over his career, each focusing on a different artist or thinker — including those such as Rembrandt, Sigmund Freud and Frederick Chopin — and each more inventive than the previous one.
"The only way to keep my mind fresh is to not think about making art all the time. I try to allow ideas to come to me unforced, a natural progression that creates a clear vision," he says.