Words by Christina Sanders If a picture can paint a thousand words, then how many words does it take to paint a picture? In the photographic work of artist Idris Khan, words are taken a layered over each other repeatedly. The process renders them illegible but produces an image that is both elegant and brimming with profundity. For these photographs, which have become Khan's 'signature style', he takes famous texts, pages of sheet music, or a selection of similar iconic images (for example, every Turner postcard in the Tate Gallery shop) and digitally stacks them on top of one another. The results are blurred and fractured. They look misty and dream-like; like something half remembered or two many things remembered at once. The images hint at an obsessive nature, wanted to consume everything all in one go. Idris Khan's new exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery features three of these photographs. Two using the score from Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation, generally considered to be the composers finest work, it is based on the Book of Genesis and apparently too him longer than any other piece he worked on. It was Haydn's own personal battle for salvation - "I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation; I fell on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to finish the work." The third photograph in the exhibition takes the text from Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, also based on the book of Genesis and detailing the fall of man. Khan layers up each of the twelve verses, to form a grid-like pattern. The liner form looks stripped-down and reductive, yet the image is far from sparse, having been created from of thousands of words and ideas. It is the layered photographs that Khan is famous for, however this exhibition sees his work take a new direction. He is now working with three-dimensions, but has not departed completed from his old style. The sculptural work, Seven Times, follows similar principles to the photographs - the idea of repletion and the layering of text. This time though, instead of being built up, the lines of Islamic scripture, used for this piece, have been sandblasted out of steel cubes. The Arabic words, rendered abstract as they multiply, leave soft, poetics lines in the hard metal boxes. The words are the prayers that Muslims say five times a day. The layout of the cubes is a replica of The Kaaba, the ancient structure inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which Muslim's face during those prayers. Though the subject matter of Khan's art might be extremely involved, dealing with issues of life, death and religion, the look of this show is very clean and simple. Reference is made to the minimalist movement and in particular Carl Andre, with monochrome lines, the industrial materials and the use of the grid formation. This show deals with religion from two opposing sides, featuring both Christian and Islamic writings. Khan himself is a non-practicing Muslim. This interest in the general spirituality suggests the desire to understand the world, but not relying on one viewpoint alone. Here we see everything laid out at once. Thousands of prayers, or ideas compacted into one image, ready to be absorbed. Each piece also making reference to the personal struggle of man, whether that be Haydn's fight to complete The Creation, Adam's strive for free will and his fall and his eventual fall from grace in Paradise Lost, or the never-ending pilgrimage of the Muslims to Mecca. This work has high concepts, yet a contrasting visual style that is simple, refined and formal, but then, to utilize another old saying, still waters run deep. You can find out more by going to www.victoria-miro.com