SHAKIL SOLANKI: The Pearl Fishers, Reprised

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A home of heavens: Shakil Solanki’s ‘The Pearl Fishers, Reprised’

May 18, 2023 - Misha Krynauw | ARTTHROB

As the applause of the opera’s opening night resounds, I remember the final square of gouache works that Shakil Solanki offered for his exhibition, The Pearl Fishers, Reprised, at Everard Read. A Sumptuous Palace Opens Itself to Our Gaze, Our Rapid Flight, Carries Us Off to The Heavens (2023) delivers me from the beautiful but bitter tragedy of Zurga’s fate to a hope that honours his deep love of both Nadir and Leïla. In the setting of a seaside village of pearl fishers, the lead characters are confronted by their ideas of love and loyalty when the history of their interconnected relationships come to a head one fateful day.

I feel grateful for Solanki’s interpretation of Georges Bizet’s 1863 opera. The artist writes in his exhibition statement that he was inspired by “the most poetic approach to the canvas” as a result of the prose in Derek Jarman’s Chroma. Here, Solanki also describes “fleshing out a queer subversion of the tragic love triangle,” which Elisabeth Manduell used as her own source of inspiration in readying the opera for its return to audiences following the outbreak of COVID-19, which halted the show’s first run.