raqib shaw – paradise lost at white cube masons yard

5 October 2011 § Leave a comment

Entering the galleries of White Cube at Masons Yard to see Raqib Shaw’s latest works is reminiscent of viewing ancient treasures in a middle-eastern museum. Mythical scenes are played out in vivid colours, gilt and bejewelled to invoke the Paradise Lost of the title – a lost homeland of myth and fable and a reference to his Indian childhood.

The detail is mightily impressive. Shaw carefully and minutely manipulates pools of enamel and metallic paint with a porcupine quill bringing texture in to features like flowers and the surface of the moon. Rather like the technique used in cloisonné each area of paint is delineated with a raised edge – here of paint – which is then finished in gold.  Drawing on the techniques of ancient craftsmen plus the style and imagery of Persian art and Hindu texts he forms his own modern mythology. Coloured glass crystals and beads are a final magical touch.

Look more closely however and you will find darker themes. Predators tear chunks of bloody flesh from their prey as more human characters undertake futile tasks. Upstairs the two sculptural bronze pools of Narcissus, based on fountains at Versailles feature swans pecking the innards from a screaming vampire/human form in a revision of the myth. There is endless detail – time will quickly pass as you lose yourself in the complexities of the work and detail of the narrative in each huge canvas.

This is an impressive show with a dozen large-scale works that include the eponymous Paradise Lost which is itself  fully twelve feet long. With Shaw’s work nowadays reaching £500k plus at auction it would need a healthy bank balance to think of purchasing any of these works, but meanwhile get down to White Cube to enjoy these wonderful works whilst you can.

White Cube Masons Yard until 12 November 2011

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