Visually deceptive, at first glance, the work dazzles the viewer with its gilded and ornate surface, embellished with sparkling rhinestone, glitter and shiny enamel paint. But a deeper engagement reveals the blood spattering, gory details of a world, in a state of collapse. In Homi Bhabha’s words, ‘a world without divine supervision.’
With the seduction of bright colours and the sensuous beauty of nature painted in ‘Absence of God –VIII’, Raqib Shaw’s imagery oscillates between the realms of fairy-tales and nightmare. Lush garden of flowers turns into a stage for the dance of death, with daunting arachnoid creatures in flesh-red creeping up in-between. His unique style is marked by transforming anthropomorphic imagery seen against architectural forms similar to Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s depiction of ruins of imperial Rome. The grandeur of manmade structures falls apart amidst swords piercing bodies, dancing skeletons and strange composite figures staring at us, the viewers. Beautiful birds turn into scavengers, clawing and pecking on flesh. The beauty of life and horrors of death are simultaneously witnessed here. Perhaps in this series, Shaw reminisces the disorienting loss of his childhood, his hometown and Kashmir.