The Barbican Centre proved to be the perfect bank holiday treat. It was my first visit to London’s second largest conservatory and it definitely had an urban jungle vibe to it! The conservatory contains more than 2,000 types of tropical plants, trees, exotic fish and turtles. It’s a great place to relax, reflect and of course take an obligatory selfie. Visitors also have the option to treat themselves to afternoon tea in the greenhouse.
What sets this particular conservatory apart from the likes of Kew Gardens is that you are well aware that you are still in the City. The Conservatory does not want to hide that fact. It embraces the chaos that is London. Vines climb up harsh concrete walls, the lush greenery contrasts against the grey building interiors and council estates provide the back drop for banana trees.
After visiting the Conservatory, I stumbled upon Imran Qureshi’s exhibition, Where the Shadows are so Deep. This is Qureshi’s first major London commission and has been created specifically for the space in which it has been exhibited in, The Curve. Qureshi’s paintings continue his Mughal miniature motif and begin with images of nature and beauty but gradually become darker and disturbing. The use of blood against a backdrop of beautifully constructed Mughal inspired miniatures can be seen as a reflection of the political context in which Qureshi finds himself, but the message is universal. “Generally, there’s a lot of violence around me in Pakistan, but then there is a lot of violence all over the world. Violence is not a strange thing or a stranger for anyone.”
I have always been a fan of Qureshi’s work and this was the first time I had seen it in person. However, it did feel that the space was maybe too large for the intricate paintings which became engulfed and lost. Qureshi’s exhibition is on display until 10th July 2016 and is free admission.