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An Interview With Raqib Shaw

Rajesh Punj

Entering Raqib Shaw’s studio via a disheveled facade front into a brilliantly baroque styled garden, one relinquishes the ugly trappings of the suburban swell of fast food restaurants and mobile phone retailers for the grandeur and grace of a stately home, cum workspace. Camouflaged by the seasonal colours of his blossoming exterior, the city is rewardingly replaced by the sensation of Shaw. As his living and working environment have become the selfimposed setting for a man who for his Indian upbringing resembles something of English playwright Quentin Crisp, for their shared anxiety of the outside world.

In his loosely fitting shirt, coloured neck scarf and flat cap, Shaw speaks as a raconteur of the Victorian era, with a Jack Russell terrier under one arm, where one might expect a recreational rifle. Addressing his opposite number as ‘sir’ and ‘darling’,
Shaw has already circumnavigated me through his extensive gardens and bee sanctuary, before inviting me to join him in his Bonsai garden for Kashmiri tea. Indulging in the adventure of two cultures, Shaw’s coutured manner appears as alien to who he was, as his having chosen to acquire an old sausage factory in South London as the setting for what has become an elegant enclave, from where the artist appears to want everything beautiful to flourish.

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