An evening at the Herbert with George Shaw
Quite an unexpected occurrence; a rather out of the blue suggestion from my Add-vantage course lecturer to visit tonight’s big event in the Herbert Art Gallery. So regardless of my fatigue from a long day of group assignment work, and a longing to just put my feet up and get some coursework done (with a hot cuppa by my side of course!) I went along, and it was… interesting.
At first glances it felt uncomfortably reminiscent of my trip to the UK screening of ‘Underwater Love’ in London: Pompous chatter in an intelligently formal dress code, with the familiar smell of cheap champagne and the ‘avant garde’ musk surging around in the air. I felt incredibly out of place having gone straight to the event in my lecture clothes, I think I was the only one who wasn’t in a suit or in keeping with the upper/middle class look, nevertheless I tried to mingle unsuccessfully and figure out what was happening and why I was there (that’s right, no-one filled me in on what was actually happening beforehand!)
Turns out that George Shaw grew up in Coventry, and is a regular ‘returner’. His art has evolved from an angsty working class pop-art celebrating punk/skinhead culture of the eighties to incredibly well crafted landscape paintings that hold something of a social commentary, or as Shaw himself called it in an interview with observer “Conservatism”
The two things that struck me in his works were the ghostly portrayal of urban decay in the places he used to know “It’s one last look at a corner of the world that hardly knows me.” and the signature use of lighting in his art. He is able to capture light bounces and warm natural glows simply in his painting, which is nothing short of mesmerising, take this image below for example. It’s a personal favourite of mine after I saw it in the gallery earlier today.
I couldn’t help but become sucked into the intensity that this picture holds, he has created a moment from scratch that we can all identify with, because we all appreciate or at least recognise that occasional ‘pink sky’ that lights up a cold frosty morning before work or school. This truly is, nothing short of genius.
For a Turner award nominee this man was very humble, if not a bit light hearted, but the one sentiment I took away from his talk was his affection for his home-town (regardless of the state it may or may not be in). “There is a humility here, and it’s warm” This evening has left me with more food for thought, and a hearty notion that pride in your home town does not rely on the aesthetic or economic state, but more what you take from it in experience. Interesting stuff…