Seen from a distance, the intricate paintings of Raqib Shaw appear to depict lush fantasy worlds; on closer inspection, they reveal tormented, mischievous spirits running rampant amid nooks and crannies.
Influenced by 15th-century Italian iconography and drawing on Renaissance and Baroque imagery, Shaw creates his hyper-detailed scenes using a unique method, manipulating pools of enamel with a porcupine quill. Features are often then studded with tiny jewels and outlined in metallic paint.
Many visitors will remember his major show at Manchester Art Gallery in 2013, but this new exhibition at the Whitworth offers a different angle on his work, taking the form of an installation referencing the sense of theatrical extravagance so intrinsic to his practice. A number of new paintings are flanked by textiles, wallpaper and Renaissance drawings taken from the Whitworth’s historic collection, with Shaw’s work hung on a backdrop of wallpaper designed by the artist himself.
This exhibition forms part of the New North and South initiative, which brings together 11 arts organisations from across the North of England and South Asia in a programme of co-commissions, exhibitions and international exchange, highlighting the work of leading Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and UK artists.