Monday, 13 November 2017

Raqib Shaw

I was really happy to have caught this exhibition at Manchester's Whitworth art gallery - one of a series across the city that are celebrating a programme of South Asian art and culture. Raqib Shaw is a contemporary artist whose work is both opulent and fantastical, drawing on the influence of Hieronymus Bosch, and also unconsciously perhaps, I feel, the work of Victorian painter Richard Dadd, another artist obsessed with meticulous detail who also painted fairies and other supernatural creatures. This exhibition showcases Shaw's extraordinarily imaginative works and the influences and sources - both Eastern and Western - that he draws on. Above and below are images of his specially commissioned wallpaper - After A Midsummer Night's Dream, based on Shakespeare's play. The wallpaper is heavy with ornament and decoration like work created in the Victorian era, and seems almost hallucinogenic when seen as a backdrop to this exhibition.

The exhibition is visually rich, and saturated in detail. It displays Shaw's influences, besides Japanese prints and a kimono, and examples of both Eastern and Western needlework, you can see Dutch still life painting, and romanticised Western takes on Eastern life in the Orientalist painting seen towards the end of the post.

Shaw's work is a modern take on Surrealism with hybrid human figures sporting animal heads. Shaw's technique is very interesting in that the paintings are executed in a heady decorative cloisonné technique which can seem quite sickly to some tastes. Shaw uses enamel and metallic paints which are manipulated with a porcupine quill before being outlined with embossed gold. Some pieces utilise swathes of  Swarovski crystals. The resulting busy paintings are reminiscent of the proto-surreal works of 15th C. artist Hieronymous Bosch.

Another installation view of the exhibition with Shaw's After A Midsummer Night's Dream wallpaper as a decadent backdrop.

Influential Indian weaving above, and display cabinets with examples of Shaw's meticulous cloisonné techniques. Artists working processes are always very interesting to see, and the examples seen here were no exception.

Shaw's bronze sculpture (above), continues the animal hybrid theme, and below is another example of Shaw's decadently decorative cloisonné technique embellished with rhinestone crystals. The exhibition continues for just one more week.

Raqib Shaw
until 19th November
The Whitworth
Oxford Road