George Shaw: Death is the Only School

Passion is the only teacher – and so death comes to be the only school.
Ted Hughes

This is detail from an until-recently unfinished George Shaw painting. You don’t get a lot of graffiti like this any more, probably because the mind behind such a statement can now vent online, thus proving my point that the internet really is just the world’s biggest toilet door and we are all scratching our names into the peeling veneer.

It’s not clear if this painting, when completed, will feature in George’s imminent retrospective – A Corner Of A Foreign Field – which opens at the Yale Centre for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, USA in October, moving to the Holburne Museum in Bath, UK, early in 2019 – but there’ll be plenty of other paintings of scrawls and daubs on walls. On my one visit to Tile Hill, the housing estate in Coventry that George depicts in his paintings, I was struck by a brick wall down a ginnel that had the words ‘BLACK SABBATH’ daubed in large letters across it. I couldn’t help but feel that this graffiti must be decades old and has barely faded, suggesting that, like the White Horse at Uffington or the ‘Rude’ Man of Cerne, someone is touching it up on a regular basis, preserving it for future generations to muse over.

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