Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A fantasy world full of erotic tension and violence

Beneath the glittering surfaces of artist Raqib Shaw’s extravagant paintings lies a fantasy world of animals and mythical creatures. Pulsing with suggestions of violence and eroticism, these are rendered with extraordinary flair and detail.

His practice is based on a deep understanding of the rich history of poetic-visual culture of both East and West, having drawn on a rich seam of influences from India, Japan, and China. A vast range of sources, from English literature and Renaissance painting to Japanese kimono and Chinese cloisonné techniques, informs their hybrid imagery. Their visual opulence derives from his unique process, which builds up surfaces using stained glass paint and enamel, teased into shape using a porcupine quill, and finished with gems, glitter and rhinestones. This labor is so demanding that the paintings take months, even years at times, to complete.

The multi-faceted artist is known to employ mix media, such as car enamels and industrial paints coupled with decorative materials comprising glitter and precious gemstones for densely patterned and elaborately layered surfaces that combine an Eastern and Western perspective. For all their flourishes, his works reveal both a highly resourceful imagination and a singular, innovative commitment to the process of painting.

Apparently inspired by a wide range of sources, the artist unveils explosive collisions of mesmerizing fact and fiction, nature and culture. The startling aesthetics unveils itself only on closer examination to bring out sexual bizarreness and violence. At a latent level, it touches upon the vices of mindless consumption and profligacy as well as intemperance that that afflicts mankind. He unveils a chain of cultural contradictions, essentially based on the twin factors of self-knowledge and dream psychology. The jewel-like surfaces, bright colors, and intricate detailing deceptively mask the violent and sexual undertone.

Known to be an excellent draughtsman, he can effortlessly produce thousands of drawings of flowers, and creatures - both real and imaginary - that make their way into the vibrant paintings. They are then meticulously infused with enamel-like paint, later to be covered with countless tiny emeralds, rubies etc. Intense shades of captivating colors achieve a high degree of precision with his expert touch.

His awe-inspiring oeuvre tends to recreates myth and fantasy with devils and angels, horror and beauty infused in equal measure. A wealth of dense imagery fills Raqib Shaw’s paintings and sculptures: fantastical creatures and devil-like gods, decayed ornamental architecture, and exquisitely painted flowers and grasses. Raqib Shaw’s works formed part of the 7th Asia Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT7).

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