Another Sort Of Homecoming
Further to this post, here’s another study of a location in Tile Hill, the inspiration behind George Shaw‘s entire artistic output since 1996. Having been fascinated with George’s work since I first discovered it in 2008, I finally had the opportunity to visit Tile Hill in October last year. I’ve explained before how truly strange an experience it was, finally being able to walk through places I’d obsessively studied paintings of for several years. I had about 2 hours there, during which I took dozens of photographs, mainly of scenes I recognised from the paintings, but the location above was one of the few I don’t recall from the 200+ works George has done. It seemed to me the perfect summation of George’s aesthetic – crumbling brick wall, cracked pavement, muddy path, brooding woods – and I knew there and then that one day I’d have to do my own interpretation of it. Rather than give it the full-scale acrylic-on-canvas treatment, I decided to make it a much smaller and more intimate piece, with obsessive attention to detail rendered in ink and shaded with thinned acrylic that I applied like watercolour. The title ‘Malingering Autumn’ – is a bad pun on Millais’ ‘Lingering Autumn’, and refers to that fact that though I was there at the fag end of October, the trees were still in full leaf. It was only when I’d finished the painting that I realised I’ve depicted this place before, in a 2012 drawing called ‘The Dog Path‘.
What’s curious to me is how a location to which I’m a complete stranger can have such a pull on my imagination. I think it’s because it’s so similar to the place I grew up in the 1970’s-80’s, a post-war council estate in Leeds, and in that place I had many of the same experiences George did, experiences that now seem so much more profound than almost anything that’s happened in the recent past. It just never struck me at the time that the collapsing garages and graffitied walls and overgrown paths where we found the dregs of cider bottles, discarded porn mags and spent fireworks were viable subjects for art, but George made them so, and has done for nigh-on 20 years. I now understand that if my art is to have any meaning (for me, at least) then it has to be informed by those experiences and emotions that still resonate with me today, even if it means the results don’t always make for ‘pretty’ pictures. If there’s a sufficient amount of emotional intensity put into the work as it’s being made, then that raises even the most mundane subject matter to mythic proportions.