On the one hand, we have one of the most successful artists in the world: awarded of "Star of Excellence" by the President of Pakistan, "Medal of Arts" by the Washington State Department, artist of the year in 2013 for Deutsche Bank, winner of the Sharjah Biennale in 2011... On the other hand, we have a cricket team born in 2015 in order to compete in the Pakistan Super League and at the moment the team that has achieved the most victories. Cricket is a British sport already in vogue in the Middle Ages and that in 1700 became the English national sport and as such spread throughout the British colonial empire.
When Imran Qureshi sent me the video a few weeks ago where he interacts with two Islamabad United players, Shadab Khan and Asif Ali, I was particularly impressed. And so I wanted to deepen the project. Energy, movement, actions “were combined with my signature style of miniature painting and the way I draw foliage. The foliage is meant to signify life, peace and harmony. For this reason, I got together with Shadab (Khan) and (Asif) Ali, and in the video, they are seen using a tennis ball. Usually, when we start playing cricket in our childhood, most of us use tennis balls. A lot of times that ball would roll into mud or water splashing all of it on our clothes and everywhere else. The way we’d bounce that ball against the pavement to get rid of the water or mud, I wanted to document the impression of that bounce and reflect the nostalgia of that time in our lives. Our cricketers play a professional game now and I wanted to take them back to that nostalgic time” said the artist.
The AANideasLAB: IQ X IU project was born at the behest of the owner of Islamabad United, Ali Naqvi, who said “Since its inception, Islamabad United has been focused on bringing innovation to the PSL and one of our missions has been to use the huge reach of cricket in introducing socially positive causes to a wider audience. I am especially enthused about this idea as it combines two of our passions – cricket and art – together, something not done before anywhere in the world. I have been thinking about this idea for a few years but Covid delayed its execution until this year. The project will help in mainstreaming visual and other arts to cricket fans in Pakistan as well as to a global audience. I am grateful to Imran Qureshi for accepting such a challenge as its inaugural artist and to the Islamabad United players who have shown flexibility for this totally new experience. Like all of you, I am keenly looking forward to seeing what creative forms this project takes”.
There is a lot of magic in this project that wants to bring art to a wide audience that is not normally used in artistic language. The elements are different: the internationally iconic artistic practice of Imran Qureshi; the action, the "making art", the performance; the belonging to a common culture that unites, that does not divide; the "returning children", a sort of reset of our mind, our heart, our life, a return to when we looked at the world with different eyes, to when there was less competition, to when we had less but we were happier. There is a desire for rebirth that through the game comes straight to our hearts and in an immediate way speaks to us of life and love. It is Qureshi's artistic revolution that through a highly poetic universal artistic practice manages to talk about socially important issues, themes that are strongly contemporary but can also be linked to the fundamental questions of man. A practice that has given so much to the world of international art but that can give so much in any other social field.