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Raqib Shaw is both aesthetically and literally immersed in the paradoxical pulls of culture, history, land and belonging – and the specter of the colonial past.

His oeuvre combines references to Western historical works of art, specific locations, and self-portraiture to create subversive fantastical scenes that reflect his own lived experience. He is concerned with the production of beauty; fusing motifs and influences from both Asian and Western traditions. The jewel-like surfaces and dense compositions of his paintings and sculptures evoke both beauty and violence. Shaw's unique technique, where pools of enamel and metallic industrial paint are manipulated to the desired effect with a porcupine quill, throws into relief numerous details within the paintings from flowers and feathers to stone marbling. Every motif is outlined in embossed gold, a technique similar to ‘cloisonné’ found in early Asian pottery, which is a source of inspiration to Shaw.

The Ballads of East and West emerges from the ‘interstices’ of culture interaction and will travel across the U.S., to four museum venues: Frist Art Museum, TN, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MA, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, CA. The exhibition is curated by Zehra Jumabhoy, a UK-based art historian, curator and writer specializing in modern and contemporary South Asian art with an interest in theories around decolonization, nationalism and diaspora. She is working with coordinating-curator Pieranna Cavalchini, the Lisa and Tom Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Essay and catalogue entries by Zehra Jumabhoy with foreword by Seth Feman, CEO and Executive Director, Frist Art Museum and Peggy Fogelman, Norma Jean Calderwood Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  • 116 pages
  • Hardcover