During a youth spent in Kashmir, Shaw experienced the destruction of his country’s naturally exuberant and paradisiac environs as a result of the outbreak of civil war. Atrocities witnessed at that time would inform Shaw’s profound preoccupation with the human psyche and manifest his devotion to aggressive beauty as a passionate expression of the living. As a result, scintillating states of ecstasy and explicit conditions are brilliantly captured in both animal and mythical creatures in his opulent works. The anthropomorphic attributes of these figures serve as an invitation to the viewer to indulge and share in the emotion that Shaw’s paintings actually represent: an uncompromising joy for life. With regards especially to the decisive role that colours play in his oeuvre, Norman Rosenthal speaks of Shaw’s ability “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, 20 May 2009, online).
In its employment of colourful phantasmagoria in an aesthetically charged setting, Arched Blossom Gatherer I utterly embodies the cultural hybridity that lends Shaw's oeuvre its constant intrigue. A scene that assembles the imagery of Japanese classical drawing is enveloped by an arc that on the one hand follows the compositional tenets of European old master painting whilst on the other it is rendered in an Oriental fashion. Masterfully uniting these different languages in one painting, the artist achieves a rare creation of complex beauty that is a gloriously expressive and indulgent celebration of life. The present work is part of the highly acclaimed series Paradise Lost, which by name alludes to John Milton’s milestone of English poetry and aesthetically to the most formative experience of the artist’s life in his native Kashmir, when his paradise as he knew it was ravaged by civil war.
The masterful depiction of explicit conditions conveyed through a brilliant signature aesthetic of opulence renders Arched Blossom Gatherer I an exquisite encapsulation of the central ideas and expressions of Shaw.
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