Today, we’re looking at a 2015 painting by the amazing Raqib Shaw. It’s part of a series of four paintings based on works from the National Gallery. I picked this one because it fits the exhibition particularly well, being a self portrait set inside the artist’s studio. A lot of imagery is reminiscent of himself and his work, such as the bronze sculpture which was first exhibited at the same time as this painting. Other elements that refer to the artist in this painting are his dogs and his champagne case.
I also like that there is an actual mirror at the center of the painting where the representation of the artist is reflected. This might be linked to the fact that it is adapted from an older painting by Steenwyck, dating back to 1610. As you can see if you compare it with the original below, Shaw kept the basic structure and format of the painting, as well as some striking elements: the architectural features, the tablecloth, and the floor design. His painting is more charged than the original, in his usual opulent style and with his particular technique of painting with enamel using a porcupine quill, which renders this precision and realistic feel. Another difference you will have noticed is the background, which features views on a garden in Shaw’s version. This is the view he has from his studio; so effectively, he hasn’t represented his workplace in terms of structural features but in terms of its exterior.
I’m a big fan of this painting because of its very personal nature but also because there is plenty to look at. It’s full of technique, color work, but also choices, which gives it a striking personality that I fell can sometimes get lost in a lot of contemporary art.