Entertainment & Arts

Akram Khan: Gallery gives glimpse into dancer's world

Akram Khan at London 2012 Olympics Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Akram Khan (far left) performed in and choreographed a segment at the London 2012 opening ceremony

Akram Khan is one of the UK's most inventive and captivating dancers and choreographers. He performed at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, has worked with figures from Sylvie Guillem to Kylie Minogue, and will be a judge on BBC Young Dancer 2015.

Now, he has transformed part of The Lowry gallery in Salford into a den of art, film and performance that gives visitors a glimpse into the worlds that inspire him.

Khan has been given the run of the gallery for the latest instalment in The Lowry's Performer As Curator series.

"A lot of my work is inspired by visual arts and a lot of it's inspired by films," he says. "All the work here has some subconscious effect."

Image copyright Ben Blackall

The exhibition, titled One Side to the Other, features paintings and sculptures by artists including Anish Kapoor (Negative Box Shadow, above) and Antony Gormley as well as live performance from some of Khan's dancers, who will lead groups through the gallery on Saturdays.

Khan won acclaim for his magical 2011 show Desh, which won Olivier and South Bank awards, and his moving segment about mortality in the London 2102 opening ceremony.

Khan says Anish Kapoor (Mass, above) was his first artistic collaborator. The sculptor designed the set for Khan's 2002 production Kaash.

"Many artists talk about spirituality," Khan explains. "They really want their work to be spiritual. The only artist I've ever seen that doesn't have to talk about it, but when you see it it spiritually moves you, is Anish Kapoor.

"If you want to experience spirituality, look at Anish Kapoor's work. It's something that is form but formless. There's something very real and at the same time it creates an illusion."

Image copyright Tristram Kenton

Khan has also worked with Antony Gormley, and dummies created by Gormley for Khan's 2005 show Zero Degrees (above) are now on display at The Lowry.

Speaking about Gormley's sculptures, Khan says: "I'm not a person who likes to stand still but it allows me to be still and my mind to be moving. It just conjures up emotions and is very powerful."

Gormley's Iron Baby and Lever II (above) are also on show. Looking at Gormley's creations is "like looking at yourself", Khan believes.

"It's like looking at your own body. There's something very human about it, of course, but at the same time it's almost like it's made out of clay, like he moulded it out of the earth, and there's something sacred about that."

Kate MccGwire's Stigma pictures are made from lead and pigeon feathers. They are "stunning", Khan says.

"Her attention to detail is phenomenal. It reminds me of cells and atoms. There's something scientific about it, but then again you go up close and you see that there's nature because there are feathers."

Image copyright Paul Mannion

Along with works by renowned artists, Khan has included a drawing by a local eight-year-old boy, Thomas Newton. It was chosen after his class from Ellenbrook Primary did an art workshop at the venue.

"I'm fascinated by the creative mind which exists in the child," Khan explains. This picture is a reminder that children carry the "seed" of creativity, he says. "It begins somewhere. At that point, there are no limits.

"We're conditioned out of creativity. That's really tragic. All these artists, for me, haven't grown up, in many ways. They imagine the impossible."

Two years ago, fire destroyed Iranian-American artist Darvish Fakhr's studio and ruined his paintings of Iranian landscapes. So Fakhr has recreated the paintings - but in miniature. The artworks in this photograph are only a few centimetres wide and are housed in a wooden kennel. The work is titled The Foreign City.

"In order for you to see the paintings, you have to bend down," Khan says. "And the paintings are very, very detailed. It takes a lot of work - much more work than a bigger painting."

Image copyright Ben Blackall

These lithographs, titled Hodegetria I and II, are by Serena Smith.

Visitors are asked to remove their shoes at the entrance to the exhibition and Khan says he wanted to create an experience that was not like wandering around a normal gallery.

"What I wanted to do was to awake the senses," he says.

Akram Khan - One Side to the Other runs until 1 February at The Lowry gallery in Salford.

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