Garden of Earthly Delights by Raqib Shaw
The Hole NYC
Deitch Projects, 2005
Text: David Rimanelli
Gorgeous oversized book from the Deitch Project archives!
“Garden of Earthly Delights,” the first New York solo exhibition by London-based Kashmiri artist Raqib Shaw, featured five new paintings and twenty drawings, depicting the erotic underwater realm of his imagination. Oriental, psychedelic, surreal, pornographic, and decorative, his outrageous private phantasmagoria include efflorescent genitalia, surfaces nippled and crevassed, space enigmatic in a suffused underwater thicket, and time clenched in perpetual orgasm.
The artist incorporates a veritable natural history museum of flora and fauna: Fan coral, seaweed forests, anemones, limpets, sea turtles, anglerfish, coelacanths, writhing eels, skittering crustaceans, and turgid sea cucumbers lurk. Echinodermata, nematoda, and chondricthyes: Phyla with names as resplendent as the animals’ colorful execution.
But cohabiting below the surface are terrestrial organisms: frilled lizards in threat display, phallus-headed underwater birds, dragonflies, bug-eyed tarsiers, and animal-headed man-beasts. These hybrids writhe and squirm in sportif sexual groupings across the effulgent surface.
The method is likewise aqueous: Fences of Swiss stained-glass paint corral puddles of pooling enamel that the artist has swizzled around with porcupine quills. While taming notoriously difficult types of paint such as industrial metallic and oil-based enamels, Raqib also encrusted his surfaces with glitter and jewels. Although he takes inspiration from decorative objects of the East—including lacquered Japanese screens, kimono textiles, antique carpets, Persian jewelry—his dialogue with the history of painting takes his work well beyond the decorative.