Raqib Shaw’'s gloriously opulent paintings suggest a fantastical world full of intricate detail, rich colour, and jewel-like surfaces, all masking the intense violent and sexual nature of its imagery. Inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’'s fifteenth century visionary triptych, Shaw’'s series of works similarly titled ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ celebrate a society free of any moral restraint. Populated with a wealth of hybrid creatures, Shaw portrays a dizzying scene of erotic hedonism, both explosive and gruesome in its debauchery. Fusing an array of vibrantly painted flora and fauna, Shaw creates an eco-system inhabited by figures such as phallus-headed birds, bug-eyed butterfly catchers, reptilian warriors or monkeys holding parasols, anthropomorphic in their gestures and regalia.
Shaw's unique technique, where pools of enamel and metallic industrial paints are manipulated to the desired effect with a porcupine quill, meticulously enhances numerous details within the paintings, such as coral, feathers or flowers. Every motif is outlined in embossed gold, a technique to similar to ‘cloisonné’ found in early Asian pottery, which is a source of inspiration to Shaw, along with Uchikake (Japanese wedding kimonos), Byobu (screens), Hokusai prints, Kashmiri shawls, medieval heraldry and Persian miniatures, carpets and jewellery.
Since 2006, one theme that has reoccurred within Raqib Shaw's imagery is the bestial coupling of an animal, ranging from a Lobster (Adam, 2008) to a Swan (Narcissus, 2011), which attacks a humanoid figure whose body is based on that of the artist himself. Shaw's appearance within his own bacchanalian power struggle and visionary world is further brought to life in a series of sculptural works, meticulously modelled and rendered - except for the crustacean, whose shell is adorned with a spectacular array of precious stones. In discussing the rape of Narcissus, David Lomas wrote in his catalogue essay that Shaw 'has witnessed beauty mutate into a monstrous progeny that turns upon it's creator'.
Born in Kashmir, Raqib Shaw left India in 1998 for London where he studied for both his BA and MA at Central St Martins School of Art. Since leaving college, Shaw has exhibited in group exhibitions including ‘Without Boundary’, MoMA New York (2006), ‘Around the world in Eighty Days’, ICA London (2006), ‘6th Gwangju Biennale’, South Korea (2006) and 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010). Major solo exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2006), ‘Art Now’, Tate Britain, London (2006), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (2008) and Kunsthalle Wien (2009). Shaw will be included in this year’s 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art.