Raqib Shaw: Garden of Earthly Delights
February 18 – April 16, 2006
Vibrant coral reefs teaming with schools of hybrid fish and psychedelic flora, presided over by half man-half beasts enveloped by a swarm of jewel-toned butterflies. This is the mythical world created by Raqib Shaw. Featuring over 15 works on board or paper, it is the first solo U.S. museum exhibition for the London-based Kashmiri artist.
Shaw’s paintings are a 21st century reference to the work of the same title by Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th century Flemish painter whom Shaw refers to as “the first Surrealist.” Shaw sets his ‘Garden’ in an underwater sea world fully populated by imaginary creatures in a hedonistic paradise. The figures are part human, part animal, part aquatic, existing in a meticulously executed setting that is reminiscent of inlay jewelry, Persian miniatures or Japanese screens. Partly influenced by his family of carpet makers and shawl traders, the richly layered compositions of Shaw’s paintings also recall decorative textiles and the abstract drip paintings by Jackson Pollock.
Raqib Shaw was born in Calcutta in 1974 and raised in Kashmir. He immigrated to England at the age of 16 and received his MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The artist is an avid student of natural history, existentialism and romantic literature. Many of the creatures Shaw depicts are cavorting in erotic play and exploration, which Shaw sees as a celebration of life.
His palette of bright colors shimmers like gems. The effect is enhanced by the eclectic mix of materials he uses that include gold, glitter and semi-precious stones set in industrial paint and car enamel. “ I wanted to create a new kind of painting,” explained Shaw, “and for that I was looking for a new kind of material.” He uses a technique that emulates the low-relief compartmented effects of stained glass work or cloisonné enamel building up the surface of the work to a low relief.
The result is a visually intoxicating work with seemingly disparate styles and imagery that come together to create a new form of painting meant to draw the viewer in and titillate the senses.