(Please see the link at the foot of this page to see Shaw’s art work).
I was a party pooper the first time I saw Raqib Shaw’s exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. I felt like an alien. My reaction was, “I don’t get it; it’s got glitter on it and I’m just not into glitter.” As I left the gallery I passed the railings that have been covered with branches and spring flowers as part of the exhibition. It was like turning my back on spring time. Feeling alien is not nice. On reflection, I was appalled by my reaction. This wasn’t looking in depth; this wasn’t challenging my habits and perceptions. That’s the two things I’ve resolved to do.
I’ve seen the exhibition twice since. Some of Shaw’s sculptures and paintings are interspersed with the work of other artists to make interesting juxtapositions. Two large gallery spaces are also devoted to his paintings. On my second visit I watched the video and it helped me to join the party. Shaw explains that he believes people often take art too seriously. His studio is full of flowers and flower displays are one of the subjects of his paintings. Back in the gallery I met again the naughty monkeys, dressed in sado-masochist gear, playing amongst grand settings.
I was no longer an alien on my third visit, could almost hear the monkeys. And I could feel the tensions in the work. For some time I found myself finding all the creatures amongst the displays of flowers. I wanted to take the bush babies home with me. I was enjoying it.
My fourth visit, hopefully with a friend, will happen soon. The potential for even more enhanced viewing of this imaginative vision is an exciting prospect. I hope you get chance to see this exhibition if it comes your way.