Renowned British artist Idris Khan didn’t have a plan when he entered his studio one fateful day in March 2022. He just grabbed things in front of him and started creating.
What eventuated went far beyond the walls of his studio. Khan created the artwork I Thought We Had More Time in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022 in collaboration with Migrate Art and the Evening Standard. The work, featuring the colours of the Ukrainian flag water coloured over a collage of musical manuscript, was sold in a timed edition print over a 10-day period.
It raised more than £200,000, the profit of which was donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee, an organisation working to support Ukrainians impacted by the war with essential items including food, blankets and hygiene products.
Idris Khan for Ukraine – the story
One day, everything is okay. The next, you’ve suddenly got two hours to leave everything behind and get out of your home.
It was this unthinkable reality for the people of Ukraine that became the basis for Idris Khan’s remarkable artwork, I Thought We Had More Time…’. In the wake of Russia’s invasion, Migrate Art connected with Khan in a bid to use its connections to the art world to support those who had been, and would be impacted by the war. When Khan came back with a resounding yes, things moved quickly.
Within ten days, Khan had finalised his work and our founder Simon had contacted The Evening Standard – a newspaper with national reach, and therefore significant exposure – to put it to print. The now three-entity collaboration between Khan, Migrate Art and The Evening Standard had sparked a viral moment - the image was seen all over the internet and the streets of London
“We only found out that the image would be on the back page of the Evening Standard the night before it was printed,” Simon recalls.
“So at 2pm the next day when the papers started getting distributed, I ran to our nearest train station and the image was everywhere! My journey home that evening was scattered with Idris' work - I saw copies of the paper on the tube, on newsstands, under the arms of people scurrying home, and there were posters pasted on the streets throughout the city. I ended up walking most of the way home so I could take it all in. It was exactly what we had hoped and intended”
Khan’s print also signalled another milestone for the artist. Previously, his works have largely consisted of a black and white palette, so his use of blue and yellow to signify the Ukrainian Flag marked one of the first times he had worked with colour.
“[The colours] almost become the symbol of the free world for a lot of people, and a symbol of hope and defiance,” he told The Evening Standard. “It’s really strong — two bold, strong colours, blue and yellow.”
He added: “I think in a time of war, art can do a lot. You can see at the moment, a lot of artists are trying to respond in the best way that they can, whether it’s making a print, or in fact going to Ukraine and doing something there.”