I recently visited Manchester Art Gallery and saw the work of Indian born artist Raqib Shaw who moved to London in 1998. The series I looked at called ‘Of Beast and Super-Beasts’ consists of dynamic scenes in the animal kingdom painted in acrylics and adorned with glitter and rhinestones. From a distance, this vibrancy masks the disturbing and violent activity within the piece, animals raping each other and pulling other animals limb from limb. This makes the monkeys who are sat above the rest being fanned and fed seem a lot more lustrous than the more innocent ‘Jungle Book’ community I first pictured them as (even though they turned out to be pretty deviant). Shaw does well to contrast this darker, more cynical activity with the glamorous shine of the media he’s used. Thinking about it, I feel quite naive in the fact that he could distract me with something shiny! Although it could be said that the overpowering jewel like media could be a part of the scene, displaying several of the seven deadly sins, I can identify lust, sloth, greed, gluttony and greed.
One thing that came to mind when looking at the sense of hierarchy in these pieces was George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where Napoleon and the other pigs eventually ruled the farm and had human luxuries that the other animals were prohibited from using.
Doomsday At Xanadu (http://www.pacegallery.com/artists/435/raqib-shaw)
I like work that I can look at for a while and find new things going on, Shaw’s work has that quality and I think I’d like create similar work using the characters I will create, just without the rape and bludgeoning.
Another piece that’s worth mentioning for this type of composition is The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo which was finished in 1861 by Daniel Maclise. It spans 46ft wide and is housed in the Royal Gallery of the Westminster Palace, London. This piece is more of a realistic account and is important in setting a historic scene. There’s so much going on in this painting, and all of the men have sombre, worn looks on their faces. Please take a better look at it through the link below.
The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo (http://www.parliament.uk/worksofart/artwork/daniel-maclise/the-meeting-of-wellington-and-blucher-after-the-battle-of-waterloo/3246)