Shaw first attracted attention for painting the estate where he grew up in the 1970s, in the Tile Hill suburb of Coventry. Shaw studied art at Sheffield Polytechnic and received a BA in 1989. In 1998, he completed an MA in painting from London’s Royal College of Art.
Shaw is noted for his highly detailed naturalistic approach and English suburban subject matter. His favoured medium is Humbrol enamel paints, which lend his work a unique appearance as they are more commonly used to paint Airfix models.
He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2011 for The Sly and Unseen Day.
Just a quick side issue… I’ve noticed a significant minority of modern practitioners give themselves a unique stamp by using an unusual medium or supporting medium… this introduces either a random element (such as Adriana Molder drawing with ink on tissue paper – she doesn’t know how it will react as it’s not treated for paint/ink)… or changes the finish as here using Humbrol enamel paints.
This makes them stand out from the crowd by introducing a unique variable, and in the very noisy artistic marketplace visibility is everything. If you’re not ‘seen’ you can’t sell. But whether it is an accident they’ve stuck to, a gimmick, whether the medium should matter at all or whether it’s a carefully thought out artistic choice must be debatable.
I have to be honest… I don’t like these.
The problem is then trying to articulate why!!!!
I’m going to take these all together rather than consider them individually.
Firstly, to my eye, they all seem barren – dead – devoid of life. This may be partly because there are no people in the paintings… but there also seems to be no connection with what is being painted, in complete contrast to L.S.Lowry.
That maybe the point… that the urban landscape is dead?
But it isn’t. Youths hang around corners, graffiti is sprayed… old people tend their gardens and quiet neighbours gossip over fences. The urban landscape is teeming with life if you know where to look.
There is decay, like a rotten tooth, the garage stands agape. But whereas this could be a comment on the passage of time (it was once a new garage attached to a house, bought with pride and housing a much-loved car). It is now abandoned, derelict and stripped of all purpose.
But here it is meaningless.
Maybe it is the lack of composition… deliberately framing the paintings like amateur snaps: My Front Garden; The House from across the Road; An Interesting Empty Garage I Saw and Might Paint; and A Gone to Seed Path. The lack of aesthetics a ploy to distance the viewer and avoid romanticising the scene?
The derelict garage and the graffitied path looks like the local council has sent out a clerk to takes pictures to attach to their, works to be done file: ‘Demolish these garages’ and ‘Graffiti to be removed’.
Neither is there any aesthetic value in their composition or colours – these do not please.
The style of painting is listed by Wikipedia as ‘highly detailed naturalistic’… but these do not look naturalistic (in a realist sense) to me. They look ‘painted’ in something that’s a cross between acrylic and oil. There are irregularities and it’s in no way as detailed as other modern realist painters.
At first glance this painting by Jesus Monge could be a photograph!
The paintings by George Shaw have a hint of David Hockney but without the humanity and compassion.
There are landscapes… but I can’t see the point.
They do not ‘speak’ to me in any way – though I recognise they are very skilled, and he’s a clever painter.
But a collection of amateur photographs of the urban environment would do just as good a job!