George Shaw: The Local - Arrival turns to departure
12 July 2022
Turner Prize-nominated artist George Shaw has a wonderful exhibition on display at The Box this summer. ‘The Local’ features a carefully chosen selection of old and new paintings and is divided into three sections. In this post, we look at the second of these.
Once you’ve walked through the first part of ‘The Local’, which features a number of works of the Tile Hill area of Coventry where Shaw grew up, you come to a section which is very different, yet just as personal. This part of the exhibition is centred around a more intimate collection of works that focus on the passing of Shaw’s mother and the loss of the family home.
One work shows the crucifix that hung above his father’s bed, then his mother’s bed and which has now been placed above the bed in Shaw’s own home. Another shows a local pub drawn from a photograph he took while standing beside his since-deceased dad. Apart from an unintended reflection of his father in the pub’s window, there are no people. Their absence is everywhere.
It is a world where every mum and dad die, where the same sun rises and sets, where we all leave home, where we can all find ourselves unheard, on the road between one thing and another.
Other works include paintings of the clouds Shaw looked up to during his mother’s final days, a self-portrait with his eyes closed, and a work showing a light switch and a space on the wall where a much-loved painting once hung. The artwork has gone but the space it once filled is clear to see.
One whole wall is filled with poignant drawings based on the photographs Shaw took as he and his siblings were packing up the house – making it possible for another family to move in. The series starts with an image of a window with the curtains open and ends with the same window, this time with the curtains closed.
For the past 25 years, painting has been a way of rooting myself in time as well as place. Unlike paintings though, time and feet don’t stand still and roots soon become routes. Loved ones leave, settling becomes unsettled and arrival turns to departure.
In a four-star review of the exhibition in The Times recently, Shaw’s work was described as ‘landscapes of loss you won’t forget’. They certainly make you think; about what isn’t there as well as what is, about what used to be there that's now gone.
If you'd like to see the exhibition in person, you can visit 'George Shaw: The Local' at The Box until the end of Sunday 4 September. Exhibition opening hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Entry is free with no need to book.