Raqib Shaw at the Met was Shaw’s first solo exhibition in a New York museum and marked a turning point in his work – from Holbein inspired works to his Absence of God series. In Shaw’s words, “Holbein has passed the baton to Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778). As my painting Absence of God IV, The Blind Butterfly Catcher shows, you have Tudor buildings giving way to a setting suggested by Piranesi’s etchings of abandoned vestiges of classical constructions”.
“Shaw’s distinctive enamel-like surfaces are created by using porcupine quills to apply metallic industrial paints. The jewelled colours intensify the hothouse atmosphere populated by the flowers, insects, birds, animals, and monsters of Shaw’s imaginary universe. Although the delightful colours and patterns evoke the Persian carpets, jewellery, and shawls that his family traded in India and Kashmir, the imagery derives from his extensive familiarity with Western painting, from Hieronymus Bosch to Francis Bacon. Like both of these artists, Shaw reveals the violence and sex that lurk beneath much human behaviour.” – Metropolitan Museum of Art.