For his first solo presentation at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Raqib Shaw exhibited a suite of drawings stemming from his Paradise Lost œuvre in 201. The anthropomorphic figures have heads like birds, crocodiles or even tigers, somewhere between gods and heroes. They hold bowls with griffon bases, pitchers with swan neck handles, and other avian-adorned pieces. Inspired by the Empire style typical of European—and more specifically French—art from the early 19th century.
Shaw pursued this approach by focusing on drawing, the ornament, painting, style and its perception. The drawings, presented in the form of an installation, invited the viewer to consider the décor both in the details and as a whole. Each work is a line drawing repurposed with ink and paint and then further enhanced with enamel, lead glass and gilding. This precious aesthetic is intended to recreate a phantasmagorical universe, one where the mysterious and the unusual reign, and where the experience of the sublime may lead, according to the artist, to “sensorial overdose”. The drawings were displayed along the walls, superpose wonders, curios and vanitas. They were exhibited as if on sideboards, like those represented in the wunderkamer of Renaissance princes or the paintings of Veronese. The viewer came into the gallery space as though one enters the hall of a château where a feast has been laid out: it is the artist’s invitation to dream and voyage through art and its references. These references borrow from a powerful imaginary world, one that brings together mythological man-animal characters. The characters evolve within precious and fantastical settings, fitted and chiselled like the work of a goldsmith.
Installation photographed by Phillipe Servent, courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris
Artworks photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd