With apologies to John Everett Millais – as it’s a play on his ‘Lingering Autumn’ painting – this is the top of Hawthorn Lane in Tile Hill, Coventry, the housing estate that George Shaw grew up on and that has been the inspiration for his artistic career since the mid-1990’s. I had cause to visit there about six years ago, and it was a truly surreal experience to walk around a place I had seen painted so many times, by someone who had obsessed about it for decades. It was like walking around inside someone’s head. To the best of my knowledge, he’s never painted this particular spot, so I gave it a go, using a technique of diluted acrylic paint and ink pens that goes back to my days in comics. I sent the original and it’s companion piece:
‘A Sort of Homecoming’ to George, who responded with rare generosity. Only when I had been to Tile Hill did I realise that it is very similar to the estate I grew up on in south Leeds, and that I could have been painting the knackered old garages and muddy paths I knew so well, years before George got started on his project. But it was his particular genius to realise that these places are just as valid subjects for art as the usual and rather obvious places we typically see painted, and to depict them with Pre-Raphaelite passion and intensity which gives them an eerie kind of power. They’re haunting, and loaded with poignance, and I know more than a few people who find his paintings hard to look at, as they are so familiar and bring such a rush of memory and associated emotions that it’s overwhelming. That, to me, is what art should do, and any less than that means that for the artist involved, their work is not yet done.