Bat-Headed People With Teeth For Genitalia At South London Exhibit

Raqib Shaw, White Cube ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 25 months ago
Bat-Headed People With Teeth For Genitalia At South London Exhibit Raqib Shaw, White Cube 5
These ghoulish skeletal creatures can be found in many of Shaw's paintings.

Dog faced royalty growl as they are swarmed by bright green parakeets. Small skeletons, flesh still hanging off them, scrabble on the floor as one of their kin bursts from the body of a lizard. All the while a snow leopard sits calmly in the corner.

All of this is in just one painting: welcome to the surreal and macabre world of Raqib Shaw.

'Dog faced royalty' surrounded by a flock of parakeets. It's about par for this exhibition.

Inspired by a mixture of his Indian heritage, Japanese art, items in his Peckham studio and the old masters, these 10 paintings showcase surreal worlds bursting with activity — much of it terrifying.

Shaw cameos as a blue faced avatar in his works, one time thoughtfully sat in a study, the other in a coffin as crows fight among each other and tear at his corpse.

One of the more reflective paintings. You'll need to get close to see the fantastic level of detail. © Raqib Shaw. Photo © White Cube (George Darrell)

From a distance some of Shaw's works look bright and inviting, but get up close and the details reveal a horror show. All his works are beautifully painted and more detail is found the more time we spend with each piece. Indeed, the devil is most definitely in the detail.

Shaw is a worthy modern day successor to Hieronymus Bosch — The Garden of Earthly Delights serving as an inspiration in Shaw's career to date.

This screaming monkey has ruby-like eyes and is frankly terrifying.

In a smaller gallery next door are three of Shaw's sculptures where bat-headed people — sharp teeth where genitalia should be — fight with each other and centaurs in contorted and cyclical sculptures. It makes for a great little sideshow and a nice complement to the main attraction of his paintings. Nice, but again, unsettling.

One of the contorted sculptures in the smaller gallery. © Raqib Shaw. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)

All of these works are the result of a brilliant imagination let loose. Ironically though, it's the realistic style of his painting that we really love — fantastical though the subject matter may be.

Realistic painting may often feel like a lost genre in today's art world, but Shaw shows that it's very much alive.

The Hindu God Shiva appears, as gold coins rain down with several cat-headed persons revelling in this wealth.

Raqib Shaw: Self-Portraits is on at White Cube Bermondsey, 144-152 Bermondsey street, SE1 3TQ until 11 September. Entrance is free and the gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Last Updated 13 July 2016