George Shaw: A Humbrol Art

Coinciding with the opening of George Shaw’s new exhibition – A Corner Of a Foreign Field – the Yale Centre for British Art has released four specially-commissioned films that explore different aspects of George’s life and work. A Humbrol Art by Lily Ford focusses on his chosen medium, Humbrol enamel paint, that seems to be an often discussed aspect of his working methods that many find unusual. I don’t. My first attempts at painting in the early 1990’s were done using the first paints that came to hand, which was an old box of ‘tinlets’ of Humbrol enamel that I tried to use to make paintings of comic book characters like Batman or The Punisher. The results were most politely described as ‘mixed’. As George explains in the film, they’re a sod to work with, but you do get some interesting results in terms of colour contrasts and textures, especially when it comes to flesh, so I was not entirely surprised by some of the shots of his studios which revealed paintings in progress, some of which are nudes, which marks a significant change in his subject matter:

The film also features some of the work made around the time he started his studies at the Royal Academy in the mid-90’s:

These were made referring to photographs he’d taken of graffiti on garage doors, which led to the epiphany of just taking a step back and painting the actual garage itself. He went from paintings like those above – which was the kind of work that got him accepted into the Royal College (“the crap I showed them was unbelievable”)- to something like this:

‘Scenes From the Passion: Late’, painted in 2002, which is a a formidable amount of progress in such a relatively short period of time, especially when working with a paint that was never designed for making masterpeices. From what he reveals during the film you get the very real sense that this vast and intensely focussed body of work had been inside him for years, waiting patiently until he was ready to make it.

A Humbrol Art by Lily Ford



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