Tag Archives: Shireen Qureshi

Struggle in the Moment of Difference

Untitled Nude (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi
Untitled Nude, (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi, oil and charcoal on canvas

I recently interviewed London artist Shireen Qureshi for This ‘Me’ of Mine.  Her ‘Untitled Nude’ is a compelling expression of the struggle in the violence of existence; of being flesh and bone.  We discussed an interesting point of the Deleuzian ‘event’…

Jane Boyer: Deleuze suggests we are an event; meaning that out of a chaos in which conditions have come together to form a ‘one’ or have passed through ‘a screen’ which allows something rather than nothing to happen.[1]  There is a sense of ‘event’ in your tableaus and the figures are that ‘event’, as if we are witnessing the coalescing of a self, how do you see this?  Do you feel the passage of time is relevant to the self?

Shireen Qureshi: It is interesting that you suggest that we are witnessing the coalescing of a self in my work because in my mind I am more interested in breaking down the body, of rupturing boundaries. I often initiate a painting by making it look real and then trying to break it down, by overlapping bodies or breaking apart skin and bone, I suppose in that sense the aim for me is towards chaos rather than from it. But I think that this is a very interesting idea, especially the sense of an ‘event’ you describe in my work, forcing my viewers into the role of witness. I think that if the paintings have created any sense of inescapable drama pinning both my figures and viewers in place, then this is an achievement in itself. From my point of view, the passage of time is interesting because it is within a space of time that metamorphosis and transformation can occur. I would like to create a sense of movement, an undulation within each of my paintings as if they were bubbles of captured space and time. I think that time is inescapably relevant to the self because it is within time that a self is built or deconstructed, subjected to the violence of existence, and within which the self moves, inevitably, towards death.

Fall (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi
Fall, (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

Whether we think much about it or not, we live every moment of our existence  with the thought of our extinction – every one of us could cease to exist at any moment.  This latent threat is one aspect of the ‘violence of existence’ mentioned by Shireen.  From her point of view the violence exists in the visceral reality of living in flesh and bone, a violence we understand first hand.  Often through serious illness or accident, the loss of loved ones or violent personal threat we realize the fragility of our existence and the latent threat of our extinction become a conscious reality.  Once aware of this imminence our sense of self undoubtedly alters; we become a self with limited time.

The visual breakdown of bodies, flesh and bone is an interesting interpretation of this psychological awareness of our mortality.  The ambiguity of whether the bodies in Shireen’s paintings are coalescing or breaking down is indicative of the struggle in the moment of ‘difference’ described by Deleuze, and as such, is also the ‘violence of existence’ Shireen speaks of. Deleuze said, “Indifference has two aspects: the undifferentiated abyss, the black nothingness, the indeterminate…in which everything is dissolved – but also the white nothingness, the…calm surface upon which float unconnected determinations like scattered members: a head without a neck, an arm without a shoulder, eyes without brows. The indeterminate is completely indifferent, but such floating determinations are no less indifferent to each other.  Is difference intermediate between these two extremes [the undifferentiated and the determinate]?  Or is it not rather the only extreme, the only moment of presence and precision?”

Hand in Hair (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi
Hand in Hair, (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

He continued, “There is cruelty, even monstrosity, on both sides of the struggle against an elusive adversary, in which the distinguished opposes something which cannot distinguish itself from it but continues to espouse that which divorces it.”[2]

Living is difference; it is the precision of presence.  Living with the imminence of our extinction is the violent struggle of divorcing that which continues to espouse us; a struggle “within which the self moves, inevitably, towards death,” as Shireen says.

Read more of our interview, ‘Straight from the Nerves’ on the This ‘Me’ of Mine blogsite.

[1] The Fold, Gilles Delueze, 1st ed Athlone Press, 1993, reprinted Continuum Publishing, 2006, p.86

[2] Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze, 1st ed Athlone Press, 1994, reprinted by Continuum Publishing, 2004, p. 36

The Universal Struggle to Self-Identify: This 'Me' of Mine

Peripheral Vision (c)2010 David Minton
Peripheral Vision, (c)2010 David Minton, oil on canvas

But it may be that without meaning there is only space, so in a sense I make my paintings by accident, but knowingly so.  The central space created by painting ‘at the periphery’ has a tension that is constantly pregnant with possibility.  In order to remain so, the tensions of space are never resolved, but continue and it is this continued lack of resolution that forms the overall content of the picture.[1] Perhaps what’s missing is what’s outside that loop or the fear of its ceasing to be a loop and become something that runs forward in time.  All those fears and hopes, everything the intimacy within the home brings, begins to open up to a greater loss and eventually time will bring the loss of things because of the infinite nature of time; everything outside of time is infinite.[2]

At art college we were encouraged to self-analyse our output and I found myself not fully understanding how I travelled from initial concept to final outcome. So, now I find it useful to think of myself as a black box where every new line of enquiry has the potential to reveal more of my inner (often hidden) self and my motivations for doing what I do.[3] Initially it was very important to move away from outward observation, it came out of necessity for me, and I had to close myself off from the real world for a while although outward observation is creeping back into the work acting as little anchors.[4] All that is visible is a barely responsive exterior… This indifference, characteristic to the figures in my paintings, suggests the social is almost taken away. You wonder what is revealed in this state of consciousness, just mindless projections on to others perhaps.[5]

Woman with Cardigan (c)2010 Melanie Titmuss
Woman with Cardigan, (c)2010 Melanie Titmuss, oil on canvas


This play on words, mixing up sentences from each artist interviewed so far for This ‘Me’ of Mine, is not intended as a clever ploy at meaning-making, but rather a look at the interconnectedness of the issues of the self and identity.  Each of these artists is concerned in their own way with issues of self in their work.  It is fascinating for me as curator to see how their concerns link together in the universal struggle to self-identify; something which I hope will become evident through these interviews.

Join us in the on-going discussions. Go to INTERVIEWS at the This ‘Me’ of Mine blogsite to read more from David Minton, Anthony Boswell, David Riley, Aly Helyer and Melanie Titmuss, the artists interviewed and quoted above (see credits below for links to the individual interviews).

Interviews coming up: Sarah Hervey, Shireen Qureshi and Sandra Crisp.  Waiting in the wings: Kate Murdoch, Annabel Dover, Edd Pearman, Cathy Lomax, Hayley Harrison, and Darren Nixon.  Art Historian and critic, Becky Huff Hunter, is kindly interviewing me and that will be coming up too.


[1] The Temporary Suspension of Tension; an interview with David Minton, 2012 Jane Boyer for This ‘Me’ of Mine, found at: http://thismeofmine.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-temporary-suspension-of-tension/

[2] Living in the Constant; an interview with AnthonyBoswell, ibid, found at: http://thismeofmine.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/living-in-the-constant/

[3] I Am a Black Box; an interview with David Riley, ibid, found at: http://thismeofmine.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/i-am-a-black-box/

[4] Anchors of Observation; an interview with Aly Helyer, ibid, found at: http://thismeofmine.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/anchors-of-observation/

[5] A Barely Responsive Exterior; an interview with Melanie Titmuss, ibid, found at: http://thismeofmine.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/a-barely-responsive-exterior/