Being a fan of depicting the ordinary in interesting ways, I have been introduced (not literally of course) to British artist George Shaw. As soon as I saw some of his artwork on the internet I fell in love with his work and wanted to learn more.
George Shaw is just a few years older than me. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2011, for his suburban paintings which form a part of a series of images of his 1970s childhood home. It was for these paintings that he attracted attention.
Shaw is noted for his detailed and skilful naturalistic approach and English suburban subject matter. He paints in Humbrol enamel paints, the type of paint usually used for model painting, and this, apparently (hard to tell online) gives his work a unique appearance. I’d love to see these paintings up close.
Shaw grew up on the Tile housing estate in Coventry, a city which Philip Larkin described as ‘It’s not the place’s fault… Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’ (from the poem ‘I Remember, I Remember’ by Philip Larkin).
What I love about these paintings is the feeling of humanity they convey. They are of such ordinary, mundane scenes, they could be from any tired suburban English city. But they seem to offer a glimpse of possibility and each one has something interesting to say. They almost seem to be on the edge of human habitation. They aren’t completely sole-destroying and depressing despite their lonely subject matter. They have a sort of optimism about them. I also like them because they are very nostalgic, especially his interior paintings. They remind me of my childhood. They are no doubt reminiscent of any 1970s working-class childhood, when hanging around home or other people’s houses, street corners or parks, was more interesting than being home. I spent many hours exploring the suburbs of my childhood neighbourhood and my friends’ houses, gardens and streets. I also spent many hours sat at the top of the stairs.
There are a lot of places where nothing much happens, and it happens in the same way everywhere and through generations. People don’t feature in the paintings yet you can almost sense human life on the edge of the paintings.
I think I love these paintings in the same way I love to watch programmes such as ‘Skint’ about people living and surviving in their suburban landscapes in ordinary yet extraordinary ways.
Wikipedia on George Shaw, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Shaw_%28artist%29 [last accessed 9 June 2013]
O’Hagan, S., ‘George Shaw: “Sometimes I look at my work and its conservatism shocks me” (Sunday 13 February 2011) The Observer http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/feb/13/george-shaw-tile-hill-baltic-interview [last accessed 9 June 2013]