Raqib Shaw

Self Portrait with Fireflies and Faces

About this artwork

This small self-portrait is a study for a more extensive painting, based upon the sixteenth-century Massacre of the Innocents by Gerolamo Mocetto. Shaw has inserted himself in the pose of a soldier in the original work holding up an infant for slaughter, but instead, he holds an open cage, with fireflies emerging and flying across the artwork. For Shaw, the firefly is a memory from his youth; symbolising ‘…hope and illumination that appears as if by magic in the middle of darkness’. The work is created using Shaw’s unique painting technique, which is similar to the practice of cloisonné enamelling. He draws out the work using a thick gold liner paint to create an intricate web of raised lines and wells; before dripping enamel paint into the resulting wells between them. The paint is then manoeuvred using a needle sharp quill. This signature technique emerged from the artist’s early experiments with materials such as household and car paint.

Updated before 2020

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