Khan's work draws from a diverse range of cultural sources including literature, history, art, music and religion to create densely layered imagery that is both abstract and figurative and addresses narratives of history, cumulative experience and the metaphysical collapse of time into single moments.
Life and career
Khan's photographs or scans originate from secondary source material – for instance, every page of the Qur'an, every Beethoven sonata, every William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, or every Bernd and Hilla Becher spherical gasholder. Khan's interest in Islam and layered imagery can be traced back to his upbringing. Khan is a Muslim by origin. His father is from Pakistan. His mother converted to Islam after meeting his father. It was his father's idea that Khan – himself a non-practicing Muslim – photograph every page of the Qur'an. His work and process have been described as "experiments in compressed memories" and "all-encompassing composites." As Khan describes: "It is a challenge to not define my work as a photograph but using the medium of photography to create something that exists on the surface of the paper and not to be transported back to an isolated moment in time."
Khan's visual layering also occurs in his videos, such as Last Three Piano Sonatas…after Franz Schubert, a three-channel video installation wherein he uses multiple camera angles to capture numerous performances of Schubert's last sonatas, composed on his deathbed.
In 2012, Khan was commissioned by the British Museum in London to create a new wall drawing for the exhibition, Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. In addition to the wall drawing, a sculpture was installed in the museum’s Great Court. Also in 2012, The New York Times Magazine commissioned Khan to create a new body of work that was published in their London issue, focusing on iconic sites.
- Still Revolution: Suspended in Time, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, May–June 2009. Group exhibition with Khan, Barbara Astman, Walead Beshty, Mat Collishaw, Stan Douglas, Trevor Paglen, Martha Rosler, and Mikhael Subotzky.
- K20 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Solo exhibition.
- Göteborgs Konsthall, Sweden. Solo exhibition.
- Taidehalli in Helsinki
- Photographic Dialogues between Past, Present and Future, Musée de l'Élysée, Switzerland, 2016. Group exhibition.
- Conflicting Lines, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, 2015. Solo exhibition.
- Saatchi Gallery in London
Khan's work is held in the following permanent collections:
- Saatchi Collection, London
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
- de young, San Francisco, CA
- Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
- O'Hagan, Sean (14 June 2015). "Gasworks wonders…". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Biography, Victoria Miro Gallery
- www.iniva.org Idris Khan
- Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry 2006. Introduction: the place of historical archaeology. In Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry (eds) The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 8–9 
- "Idris Khan: Gof is Great". artnet. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "The Guardian, Between the lines, Geoff Dyer".
- "Aesthetica, A Pilgrimage of Self-Discovery, Idris Khan: The Devil's Wall, Whitworth Art Gallery,Manchester, Carol Huston".
- Sherwin, Skye (25 March 2010). "Artist of the week 80: Idris Khan". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- "AIdris Khan's multi-layered photos, Photo Slaves, Sep 28, 2009".
- "Idris Khan: Last 3 Piano Sonatas . . . after Franz Schubert".
- "Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at The British Museum".
- "This Sunday: London in Pictures, The 6th Floor Blog, Kathy Ryan, March 3, 2012]". The New York Times. 3 March 2012.
- "Pretty as a Thousand Postcards, The New York Times Magazine online, March 1, 2012]". 1 March 2012.
- "Still Revolution: Suspended in Time". Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Saatchi Gallery Biography: Idris Khan