A Heavy Religious Conversation

 

There are few Shag paintings that instantly grab my curiosity to the unfolding events the way the otherworldly A Heavy Religious Conversation does. The simplicity of the work, the strong use of powerful red, and even the title itself, make it both playful and fun, yet bold and intriguing at the same time.

A Heavy Religious Conversation is a much earlier work, featured in J is for Jetsetter and painted in 1999. Shag’s early paintings are easy to identify. “Characters existed in flat fields of color, with few architectural elements to ground them – maybe a rock wall or a square rug to one side, but not much else,” says Shag. Here there’s simply a convinced Polynesian god engaging a witchdoctor-type adorned with a boar’s head in what appears to be a profound sacred exchange of beliefs. As a composition, the conversation itself holds the weight of the painting, with a simple smoking volcano, glowing sun, and a pile of skulls with an early Shag cat completing the work.

The choice of color in this primitive world reinforces the tone. Red is both powerful and passionate. Pair this emotional color with a sweltering sun behind an active volcano, and we are taken back to a time before supersonic jets, cool martinis or jazzy turntables.

Of course, what make a Shag painting so wonderful is the mystery behind the story and the time and place it takes us to.  Maybe the wise tiki god persuades “for the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.” To which the witchdoctor might add “he who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” Whatever the banter, Shag will never tell.

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