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  • Video

    Raqib Shaw 'Arrival of the Horse King from the series Paradise Lost', 2011-2012

    “Raqib has invented his own private universe…It’s a painting that makes your heart beat ten times faster than normal and yet for all the busyness and the enormous amount of work you still experience it as a homogeneous whole.” Phillips' Deputy Chairman of Europe & Asia Matt Carey-Williams presents Raqib Shaw's 'Arrival of the Horse King from the series Paradise Lost', 2011-2012 to be offered in our Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 29 June in London.

  • Provenance

    White Cube, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Queensland, Gallery of Modern Art, 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, 8 December 2012-14 April 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    Raqib Shaw creates opulent and fantastical visions unlike those of any other artist. Bursting with carnality, his jewel-like surfaces teem with real and hybrid creatures that fight and roar through vivid landscapes. The lurid crowds of Hieronymus Bosch are evoked, as are the fluidly elegant dynamisms of Mughal hunting scenes. Shaw has claimed that his debauched and vertiginous images are laced with irony, and can be read ‘as a commentary on my own experience of living in this society, and of being alive.' (Raqib Shaw in David Lomas, Maria Balshaw, Petr Nedoma (eds.) Raqib Shaw: Manchester – Prague, Manchester Art Gallery, 2013, p.10). His work is infused with personal experience and shaken with an intricate cocktail of other influences: the present lot is from a series inspired by Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which Shaw reconceived as a quixotic song to his own childhood memories.

    Shaw grew up in Kashmir before moving to London, and has long been surrounded by objects of decorative art from East and West; he spent some years working with his uncle, a merchant who dealt in jewellery, antiques, carpet and fabrics. Shaw’s intricate cloisonné breathes forth a baroque luxuriance that has been fiercely repurposed. He works in a unique fashion, beginning his flora and fauna as line drawings before transferring them individually to acetate; using a projector, he builds his vast compositions from the centre outwards, before applying stained glass liner to seal off the lines. He then delicately pools paint through a fine nozzle into each area, works the individual sections with a porcupine quill, and finally adorns this intensely wrought surface with gold, glitter and crystals.

    Here, his meticulous method results in a startling scene. The trees are filled with wolves; scintillating horses clash in a painfully blue sky, as birds tear eyes from sockets and flesh from bone; classical ruins shatter, strung with screaming ape-faced Cupids and psychedelic flowers. In this postmodern Silk Road of glitter and death, neon blossoms, gleaming halberds and sharp teeth abound, ropes of crystal drawn taut across the composition. This is an orgiastic earthquake of a painting, a gaudy and exhilarating tableau that exults in beautiful carnage.

    The chimeric state of Shaw’s creatures is more than decoratively grotesque. Their pain and efflorescence also reveal an artist inspired as much by the mountains of Kashmir as by Wordsworthian Romanticism and the epic visions of Milton; some of Shaw’s earlier work saw the bestial reinterpretation of a series of Hans Holbein portraits. Although we can trace such components in the evolution of the present lot, the whole possesses a gleaming novelty. As Homi K. Bhabha writes, ‘the style of cultural hybridity seen in the work of Shaw (and other diasporic artists) is a revisionary art practice that opens up new aesthetic possibilities in the relation between medium and meaning, or form and value.’ (Homi K. Bhabha, ‘An Art of Exquisite Anxiety,’ in Raqib Shaw: Absence of God, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2009, p.6).

    Bhabha notes further that the works occupy a liminal state between painting and sculpture, ever on the verge of collapse into the picture plane while yearning for enamelled three-dimensionality. Shaw made striking forays into large-scale sculpture with his acclaimed works Adam (2008) and Narcissus (2009-11), and says that he wishes to populate his studio further with such creations. He works in a grotto filled with mirrors, butterflies, barbed wire, ‘artificial birds crying tears of blood,’ and thousands of chrysanthemums and bonsai trees, seeking a decadent ‘bubble’ of societal isolation; this he says is ‘a gesture laced with irony, of course, for it is impossible to capture the grandeur of the Himalayas in an industrial studio.’ (Raqib Shaw in conversation with Kunsthalle Wien, in Raqib Shaw: Absence of God, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2009, p.109). It is keenly appropriate practice, however, for an art that is so enlivened by metaphor, and that so defiantly asserts the craftsmanship and theatrical power of painting as medium.

    The levity or shallowness of the ‘decorative’ in Shaw’s work is deepened by the horror it depicts; pain is embellished with glitter, but sharply alive and present in unnerving precision. Arrival of the Horse King is something like a depraved Hokusai woodcut, a widescreen cinematic narrative with sex and terror pumping in its veins. Shaw insists on the singular origin of the creatures that fill this single-minded vision. ‘They do not belong to any pre-given mythology. That would be folkloric, and would deny the psychological realities and personal mythologies of my work.’ (Raqib Shaw, quoted in Homi K. Bhabha, ‘An Art of Exquisite Anxiety,’ in Raqib Shaw: Absence of God, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2009, p.6). As for their anatomical genesis, Shaw’s collative process is revealing, forming a perfect synecdoche for the combined Ovidian pandemonium and Freudian self-reflection of his troubled Paradise. ‘The birds and beasts come from my extensive research into specimens at the Natural History Museum in London, from Sir David Attenborough’s incredible documentaries and from contemporary printed visual material drawn from many sources: popular culture, sexually deviant images, forensic medical journals, pictures of animal cruelty and photographs of myself.’ (Raqib Shaw in conversation with Kunsthalle Wien, in Raqib Shaw: Absence of God, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2009, pp.106-7).


Arrival of the Horse King from the series Paradise Lost

oil, acrylic, enamel, glitter, rhinestones on birch plywood
diameter 273.7 cm (107 3/4 in.)
Signed and dated '"Arrival of the Horse-King" (PARADISE LOST SERIES) Raqib Shaw 2011-2012' on the reverse of the left panel. Signed and dated 'Raqib Shaw 2011-2012' on the reverse of the right panel.

£700,000 - 1,000,000 

Sold for £722,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm