George Shaw (1966 – )
George Shaw was born in Coventry, England in 1966. He studied at Sheffield Polytechnic and later the Royal College of Art, London. In 2001, Shaw was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his solo exhibition ‘The Sly and Unseen Day’, a selection of works focusing on the Tile Hill housing estate, Coventry where he grew up.
As a painter, Shaw is known for his use of Humbrol enamel paint, normally the preserve of young model-makers, and while landscape as his subject, he focuses on the suburban surroundings of his childhood rather than the countryside. His paintings and drawings depict bus stops, phone boxes, pubs and graffiti against a backdrop of semidetached homes, blocks of flats and expanses of grey sky. This view of England is not always flattering, but it offers a detailed study of the changing nature of social housing; these unconsidered or neglected landscapes suddenly elevated by the poignancy of personal memory.
His work, Ash Wednesday: 3pm (2004–05) is part of a series of works produced at half-hour intervals throughout the day, around the Tile Hill housing estate. The work depicts a typical council house with a vast, leafless tree dominating the modest front garden. The grey/blue tones give it a brooding quality, the closed curtains and sparseness of the season creating a domestic scene from which signs of life are strangely absent. Yet the still, almost photographic framing draws attention to the presence of an observer looking, or remembering, the details of the scene.
Landscape is one of the principle genres of Western art. In early paintings the landscape was a backdrop for the composition, but in the late 17th Century the appreciation of nature for its own sake began with the French and Dutch painters (from whom the term derived). Their treatment of the landscape differed: the French tried to evoke the classical landscape of ancient Greece and Rome in a highly stylised and artificial manner; the Dutch tried to paint the surrounding fields, woods and plains in a more realistic way. As a genre, landscape grew increasing popular, and by the 19th Century had moved away from a classical rendition to a more realistic view of the natural world. Two of the greatest British landscape artists of that time were John Constable and JMW Turner, whose works can be seen in the Tate collection (www.tate.org.uk). There can be no doubt that the evolution of landscape painting played a decisive role in the development of Modernism, culminating in the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists . Since then its demise has often been predicted and with the rise of abstraction, landscape painting was thought to have degenerated into an amateur pursuit. However, landscape persisted in some form into high abstraction, and has been a recurrent a theme in most of the significant tendencies of the 20th Century. Now manifest in many media, landscape no longer addresses solely the depiction of topography, but encompasses issues of social, environmental and political concern.