There is nothing quite like a White Cube private view. As ever, there were more people outside than inside and most of those who had braved it in to see the exhibition were distinctly the worse for wear after standing on the Mason’s Yard cobbles having a ‘good go’ at the beers after having fled their offices or galleries at 6pm.
I always feel slightly torn when looking at Raqib Shaw’s works. For me, the glitziness and showy nature doesn’t quite hit the mark but there’s no denying that these are good works, well-executed in their detail.
Raqib Shaw, Ode to the lost mooon when the nightingale was set free II, 2010. Image via www.whitecube.com.
Paradise Lost, his latest body of work, presents John Milton’s famous poem in a new light creating a visionary ode to imaginary worlds from Shaw’s childhood. Upstairs, he presents two sculptural works that mirror each other covered with incredible detail. The main focus is a swan lurching over the innards of a man-like figure, blood streaming from his gouged eyes. This is Shaw’s perverse retelling of the Narcissus story also drawing on references from other Greek myths and Tchaikovsky.
I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the work so you’ll have to rely on your imagination and these slightly grainy images which, although not ideal, does seem somewhat appropriate seeing as these works are about the incredible power of the mind. The individual sections of the sculptures are hyper-realistic and unnerving. The pond is carpeted with lotus flowers and the various creatures and figures who have eaten them, now shown in various states of sexual ecstasy and/or exhaustion. Being kabourophobic (don’t laugh), I managed to suppress a shudder when I saw that he had included crabs! Shown in dim light, the colours are horrifically striking.
Raqib Shaw, Narcissus, 2009-11. Image via www.whitecube.com.
Downstairs Shaw’s wall-mounted pieces are arranged by season and climate. His use of colour (I was sporting brightly coloured heels so managed to blend in nicely) is sometimes blinding in its blatant excess. Many artists are able to conjure up their own worlds and Shaw is no exception. Working with a language based upon illustrated Hindu texts and Persian miniatures, his beautiful imagery depicts worlds filled with horror. All of these works tell stories that illustrate Shaw’s unique creativity. His warped fantasy lands are full of inherent
contradictions like the beautiful medium he uses to depict carnage.
Raqib Shaw, Blossom Gatherer II, 2010-11. Image via www.whitecube.com.
His works are huge. From a distance they glitter like a children’s story book but look closer and this shimmer is not all it seems. This is the sort of art that White Cube knows how to show off and the exhibition certainly has a sparkle to it.
Raqib Shaw: Paradise Lost is at White Cube Mason’s Yard until 12 November 2011, www.whitecube.com.