Manchester Art Gallery preview: Raqib Shaw's flowers and monsters

Kate Feld

Painter Raqib Shaw opens his largest solo show – on Valentine’s night

British artist Raqib Shaw creates rich and elaborately detailed work that draws from sources as diverse as Kashmiri textiles, Japanese lacquered screens and Hieronymus Bosch, yet manages to pull off that crowning trick of real genius: being completely unlike anything else that has come before. This February, Shaw’s largest solo exhibition to date comes to Manchester Art Gallery. Featuring 28 pieces, many of them never exhibited before, it will give us all the unique pleasure of losing ourselves in the artist’s hectic, dreamlike visions of fantasy and chaos.

From India but based for several years in London (via Central St. Martins), Shaw rose to fame at a relatively young age. In 2007, when he was just 33, Shaw’s large triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights II, sold for $5.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York. Shaw is represented by White Cube in London along with stablemates Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, and has works in the permanent collections of the Tate and other first-tier art institutions the world over. His early success is all the more remarkable when you consider that Shaw’s technique is so painstakingly detailed that it can take him as long as seven years to complete a single painting.

His paintings explode with violence and sex, monstrous beasts and nightmarish hallucinations

Shaw has created his own complex process that employs drawing, layered painting with a variety of industrial enamels, gilding and the application of crystals and gemstones. In their opulent detail, the resulting paintings call to mind decorative screens and embroidered tapestries of the sort that might grace an aristocratic parlour. But take a closer look: there are no tame and genteel landscapes here. His paintings explode with violence and sex, monstrous beasts and nightmarish hallucinations that deliver a sharp commentary on modern society.

For his upcoming exhibitionin Manchester, Shaw is entering into a different sort of dialogue with the gallery’s collection: he will produce a new painting that is a response to Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians by George Stubbs, one of Manchester Art Gallery’s most popular artworks. And his love of plants and flowers has led to some playful floral interventions within and around the gallery. For the duration of the show, it will be transformed into a flower garden with the blooms provided by Shaw’s London studio. (In a nod to floral romance, the exhibition launches on Valentine’s night, the evening at the gallery sub-titled La Nuit d’Amour, 14 Feb., 6pm-9pm.) Sounds like the perfect Valentine’s date, if you don’t mind the odd scary monster nestling quietly among the blooms.

Culture Guides

Backyard Cinema

Cinema

It only takes a quick glance at the film listings to realise that Christmas is coming, and quick. We’ve rounded up some of our festive highlights alongside standout seasons and festivals.

Exhibitions

Pause in the hustle and bustle of festive prep to take in some inspiration from this month’s top exhibitions.

The Ocean at the End of The Lane at the lowry

Families

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Manchester is bursting with fun, family activities to keep the kids entertained in the run up to Christmas!

Writer Nicholas Royle. Photo by Zoe McLean

Literature

There are spooky stories, Christmas crime thrillers and plenty of books for stocking fillers as December unfolds and Manchester and the wider North region switches on the live literature lights.

Music

The festive season is here, and whether you want to escape it or embrace it, we’ve got you covered.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

Contemporary cabaret, powerful monologues and world premiere musicals. Our theatre guide spans the festive season and beyond.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North for autumn.

Tours and Activities

We’re deep into Autumn now but don’t let that stop you from finding a new tour or activity to get stuck into.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts