14 March 2020 – 3 January 2021
Compton Verney, Warwickshire
Raqib Shaw features in the group show ‘Cranach: Artist and Innovator’ at Compton Verney.
The exhibition focuses on the German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553), a highly respected portraitist and entrepreneur. Works by a selection of modern and contemporary artists, including Shaw, convey the perennial interest in Cranach’s work.
Exquisite penance in exile…after Cranach (2019-2020) is one of Raqib Shaw’s most intimate paintings to date. Inspired by Lucas Cranach the Elder’s engraving of St John Chrysostom, the composition acts as a series of constraints through which the artist navigates.
Drawing on a unique constellation of references including: the neoteric poetry of Galus Valerius Catullus, Isao Takahata’s animated film ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Sankai Juku, a Japanese Butoh dance troupe, Raqib meticulously constructs an allegorical painting as a means of excavating the various (traumatic) strata to provoke an encounter with truth.
At its focal point, the artist depicts the act of penance and repentance of sin. In a state of deep contemplation, with peacock quill in hand he writes the Latin words, ‘non videmus mantice quod in tergo est’ which translates as ‘we cannot see the baggage on our own back’; he seeks to provoke, confront and where possible resolve inner conflicts from his troubled and complex past. Illuminated fireflies and a Robin appear to guide the protagonist, in need of mercy and succour, on a path of spiritual enlightenment.