- Raqib Shaw
- Garden of Earthly Delights XIII
- signed, titled and dated 2005 on the reverse
- enamel and mixed media on board
- 72 x 60 inches
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006
Raqib Shaw in conversation, London, Tate Britain, Art Now: Raqib Shaw, 9 June 2006, online resource.
A work of dazzling virtuosity and bejewelled excess, Garden of Earthly Delights XIII illustrates a world of fantastical originality that encapsulates Raqib Shaw’s utterly unique style. Forming part of Shaw’s celebrated series, Garden of Earthly Delights, the present work is a visual cornucopia: a feast of elaborate decoration and exquisite detail. Against a richly adorned and glimmering background, a mythical figure poses amongst richly coloured foliage, clutching a writhing lizard which appears overtly phallic in form. Half-man and half-beast, the central figure is a figment of a hidden world of dreams and nightmares; his ram's head gazes boldly out whilst appearing to levitate on decorative talons. Throughout the entirety of this astonishing series, Shaw re-imagines and re-interprets the work of the sixteenth-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. In common with Bosch’s iconic iteration on the theme, housed in the Museo del Prado, there is a strong element of surrealism within the composition: magical beings unleashed within a landscape of the imagination by the artist’s extraordinary creative powers.
Within his works Shaw invites us to enter a universe of unexpected enchantment and surprise, in which all trace of the familiar has vanished; a world in which we are offered the spectre of mythological beings within a landscape of lush, jewel-like foliage and curious architectural elements. Born in Kashmir but resident in the UK since 1998, Shaw’s work is highly influenced by his native country. Curator Norman Rosenthal has spoken of the importance of Kashmir for Shaw: “His work has this air of private excess – incredibly beautiful, very cultivated, knowledgeable – and he combines the cultures of East and West in an extraordinary way. Underneath all the hysteria there’s incredible pain and a sense of loss, both personal and political, for Kashmir. It makes his art authentic and real…” (Norman Rosenthal quoted in: Alex Needham, ‘Raqib Shaw: Inside the Garden of Earthly Delights’, W Magazine, 30 October 2013, online resource).
Shaw’s exquisite technique is a painstaking and protracted process: the original motif is delineated on tracing paper before being moved across to board, where the image is outlined with delicate strands of gold. Enamel paints in various glowing tones are then added before precious stones or beads are applied as a finishing touch. Rosenthal has noted the importance of colour to Shaw and its symbolic value within his work: “Shaw is able to conjure up a world within his paintings… of cultural contradictions that defy the imagination. Colour achieves an almost blinding intensity and precision that exists in both a horrific, and beautiful universe derived from personal experience based on self-knowledge and dream psychology” (Norman Rosenthal, ‘Raqib Shaw – conjuror of magical worlds’, The Telegraph, London, 20 May 2009, online resource). Mesmerising and thrilling, Garden of Earthly Delights XIII distils Shaw’s scintillating vision into a work of stunning complexity and profound beauty.