George Shaw

The Sly and Unseen Day

18 February 2011 - 15 May 2011

This major exhibition of the work of British artist George Shaw brings together some forty paintings from 1996 to the present day.

Within a practice that has encompassed drawing, video-making, performance and writing, Shaw is best known for his expansive body of painting. Working from photographs taken of and around his childhood home on the Tile Hill Estate, Coventry, Shaw’s landscapes are at once familiar and unnerving. Unassuming buildings, patches of woodland, pubs, his school, the park, and the arbitrary details of urban infrastructure deposited by town planners, are the cast of a series of paintings ongoing since the mid-1990s.

Painted exclusively in Humbrol enamel, the material of choice for teenage model-makers, Shaw’s subject matter brings about associations of domesticity, folk art and a nostalgia for a lost childhood and adolescence. Yet, as The Sly and Unseen Day reveals, Shaw’s art quickly moves beyond the autobiography it first suggests. His jarring, atmospheric paintings become peculiar records of Englishness and are suggestive of a different state of mind. Even his more tranquil paintings, for example Scenes from the Passion: Pig Wood and Scenes from the Passion: The Way Home (both 1999), included within the exhibition, retain a peculiar tension.

As the exhibition progresses we see Shaw take an investigative journey, typically making something out of nothing, as beauty is found in the mundane. The Ash Wednesday series (2004-5) depicts the estate hour-by-hour on a single day. Other paintings, such as The Age of Bullshit 2010 (a demolished pub) and The Assumption 2010 (the local school), offer a curious record of British social and class life. Conflating memory and present day reality, Shaw’s art takes on an uncanny quality, alluding to a murkier side of contemporary society and collective subconscious.

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