THE LAST DAYS OF BELIEF (1)




INTRO

In May 2015, George Shaw had a show at the Wilkinson Gallery, advertised as the final phase of the Tile Hill project. I missed 'The Last Days of Belief', but thanks to input from Rik Rawling and Darren G, fellow admirers of Shaw's work, I've been able to piece together said (so called) 'Last Days'.

Fourteen paintings all the same size, 56cm x 74.5cm. A row of seven mounted on one Wilkinson Gallery wall and another row of seven on another gallery wall. Each with a title taken from a song that came out in 1980. Why 1980? George was 14 then, and in publicity material that accompanied the show, he wrote:
'I suppose for all of us there comes a time when growing up turns into growing old.' Fair enough, but not at the age of 14, surely! Not that I'm complaining. I was 23 in 1980, still growing up, or so I thought, and am familiar with all the songs or at least the groups that Shaw references.

I suspect the number 14 is more to do with the Stations of the Cross business. Shaw had intended to complete 14 paintings for his first show, 'Scenes from the Passion', but didn't manage to pull that off in time. For his last show he has said wanted to have another go at coming up with a suite of 14 images.

As for 1980, I think that was a very good year for post-Punk. Thereafter, the bellow mellowed. Well, no, the bellow began to mellow after 1977 when the Pistols announced themselves with such anti-establishment classics as 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'God Save the Queen'. By 1980, the Pistols may have burnt themselves out, but they'd been replaced by some very canny and passionate voices.

Anyway, I will have a lot to say about these paintings, each and every one of them, so I'm going to consider seven on this page and seven on the next. What I've decided is the 'first' row (see below), is undiluted post-punk, as far as the song references are concerned: From left to right, Joy Division, The Clash, The Fall, Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Specials, The Stranglers and Echo and the Bunnymen. To the clever lower/middle class lads of my generation, and clearly to those of George's, these are such evocative names. Do the paintings do justice to them? Well, that's what I'm going to explore, but the engaged reader of this website will already know the likely answer.

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George Shaw.The Last days of Belief. Installation view. Photo courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery



ONE:
ONE WILL BURN

The first painting is set in the woods, so I can't locate the site of it. The painting's title,
One Will Burn, is from 'Heart and Soul' by Joy Division. This is a song that was on Joy Division's second album, released in June of 1980, a few weeks after the suicide of Ian Curtis, the group's lead singer, who was subject to epileptic fits which seemed to influence his style of dancing. A dancing which was also a reflection of his intense immersion with the group's music.

The evening before flying to America with the band, Curtis hung himself. He was only 23, the same age as I was. I'd already clocked that Joy Division had an original, resounding sound, and I had bought the single, 'Love Will Tear us Apart', and would become familiar with both the albums. But it's only now in 2017 that I'm really thinking about Curtis's death. On Youtube there's an interview with him. He sounds so young. He talks about having been keen to leave school. Then, two months into the adult world of work, of having desperately wondered what he was going to do. A very familiar working/middle class experience. At first, Curtis got lucky; he got in with a group of committed musicians. But, ultimately, no, he didn't get lucky. He went up in flames.

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George Shaw. One Will Burn, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

A married man, Ian Curtis was having an affair with a Belgian fan. This troubled the already troubled guy. His wife found him in the kitchen (not the woods) that fateful morning in May, 1980. Later she wrote about what happened:

'There was an envelope on the living-room mantelpiece. My heart jumped when I realised that he had left a note for me. He was kneeling in the kitchen. I was relieved – glad he was still there. ‘Now what are you up to?’ I took a step towards him, about to speak. His head was bowed, his hands resting on the washing machine. I stared at him, he was so still. Then the rope – I hadn´t noticed the rope. The rope from the clothes rack was around his neck.'

Did George Shaw get burnt too? To my mind, he's not giving much away in the painting. But 'Heart and Soul' was not released as a single (in those heady days of vinyl, seven-inch singles were the most common currency) so Shaw must have invested in the second album,
Closer. Searing stuff. I have no doubt that the music burned hot in the artist's brain.

Heart and Soul, One will Burn
Heart and soul. One will Burn.




TWO:
SO WE CAME TO JAZZ IT UP

Let's get out of the morbid woods and take to the streets of Tile Hill. Indeed, let's move to another register, something lighter. The next painting is 'So We Came To Jazz It Up', which is a line from 'Bankrobber' by the Clash.

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George Shaw. So We Came To Jazz It Up, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

I couldn't find the site of this painting for a good while. By which time I was very familiar, courtesy of Youtube, with the sight and sound of Joe Strummer belting out:

"Daddy was a Bankrobber
But he never hurt nobody.
He just liked to live his life
And he liked to steal your money."

A little research via Wikipedia reveals that Strummer was educated at a public school. Perhaps the opening lines should have read:

"Daddy was a Diplomat
But he never hurt nobody.
He just liked to live his life
And he liked to spend your money."

But I mustn't get too cynical. Strummer remained committed to socialism throughout his career. Still, for me there's a difference between Joe Strummer and the genuine if charismatic rage of John Lydon, Mark E Smith and Paul Weller which is based on lived experience. On the other hand, I have to say that in researching this blog I've come to love the rhythm and chutzpah of 'Bankrobber'.

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The line 'So We Came To Jazz It Up' crops up twice. The second time, directly after the already quoted chorus. The first time after the lines:

"Some is rich, and some is poor
That's the way the world is
But I don't believe in lying back
Sayin' how bad your luck is."

"So we came to jazz it up
We never loved a shovel
Break your back to earn your pay
An' don't forget to grovel."

Back to the George Shaw painting. Two council workers have arrived at the original squalid wall with instructions to 'jazz it up'. One paints a white square and the other paints a white triangle. They stand back to admire their handiwork.

Worker A: "Can't believe you went for a square, Christ's sake."

Worker B: "Can't believe you painted a triangle pointing towards the ground. You might as well have written "Ian Curtis is buried here. Jazz it
UP, we were told. Not RIP Joy Division."

Pause.

Worker A: "Can't believe we didn't bring a ladder."

Worker B: "True."

Back to the search for the site of the Shaw painting. I knew I was nearly there when I came across this via Google's
Streetview camera. It looked decidedly jazzed up to me.

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Above is how the street end looked in 2017. Google's in-built archive showed me that in 2012, the same gable end looked like this:

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Nearly the right place then, but not quite. So I looked around the rest of this sub-estate, and as I was Googling along Falstaff Road I spied the triangle and rectangle combo that I was looking for.

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I expect that by 2017 this building has been jazzed up like the other. But Google hasn't been along this road for a few years so I don't know for sure. Hmmm, I think I'm just going to assume that the council is of the opinion that this block doesn't need any more of a facelift than it's already had.

Worker A: "We did good."

Worker B: "Our best work will see us out. Shall I tell you where I want to be buried?"

Worker A: "I think I've worked that one out."

OK let's move from The Clash to The Fall. Or as Bob and Roberta Smith put it in a page in the book
Air Guitar: Art Reconsidering Rock Music, which was edited by Emma Mahoney:

tilehill5_0002
Bob and Roberta Smith. I Believe in The Clash, 1999: Vinyl silk and gloss on panel. 61.5 x 82cm. I Believe in The Fall, ditto.



THREE:
I'M ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO MY PAST INFLUENCES

Who are The Fall? That's the group whose personnel has been constantly changing, except for the ever-present singer and songwriter, Mark E Smith. Like Ian Curtis and Joe Strummer, Smith caught an early concert by the Sex Pistols and was marked for life.

Curtis, Strummer and Smith believe(d) in the Pistols. Bob and Roberta Smith, George Shaw and I believed - and still believe, I'd like to think - in the Fall. Here is the Shaw painting that takes its title from a line in the 1980 song 'How I Wrote Elastic Man'.

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George Shaw. I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

So Mark E Smith is 'eternally grateful to his past influences'. Perhaps in 1980 he was talking about the Sex Pistols of 1977. But it's also George Shaw being eternally grateful to his past influences. Meaning, Joy Division, the Clash, the Fall and those groups I'll be coming to in due course.

But for now let's stick to the unique Mark E Smith of the Fall. E standing for Everyman?


"I'm eternally grateful
To my past influences
But they will not free me
I am not diseased
All the people ask me
How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man""
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Let's leave the song there for a moment. After all, it's a painting I'm primarily concerned with. Lest we forget, this painting:

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George Shaw. I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

What is the rusted metal object in the picture? I mean apart from just possibly representing Plastic Man. I don't know. There is a patch of bare earth around it so it's the focus of physical movement. Could it be the metal struts of a park bench? Could it be for the convenience of dog walkers? I mean somewhere for people to tie up their dogs. That is probably a daft suggestion. Let's go back to the song for inspiration:

Life should be full of strangeness
Like a rich painting
But it gets worse day by day
I'm a potential DJ
A creeping wreck
A mental wretch
Everybody asks me

How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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This is hotting up. Even hotter if you play the song as you're reading this. So here's a link to 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' on Youtube. The version by Ondeafears that provides the Plastic Man covers. Prepare yourself a curmudgeonly attitude and repetition, repetition, repetition.

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George Shaw. I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

I can visualise Mark E Smith sitting on the metal object. (Is that why it's bent? Surely it would have taken a fatter arse than Smith's to do the bending!) I can see the author of 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' being asked again and again by well-meaning passers by: "How did you write Plastic Man?" Could the object be a kind of contemporary stocks. To which a misunderstood and misrepresented author or painter is strapped by the wrists and the ankles. Head in the box, as it were. A target for the throwing of rotten tomatoes. "Take that, pesky author/artist of Plastic Man."

His soul hurts though it's well filled up
The praise received is mentally sent back
Or taken apart
The
Observer magazine just about sums him up
E.g. self-satisfied, smug

I'm living a fake
People say, "You are entitled to and great."
But I haven't wrote for 90 days
I'll get a good deal and I'll go away
Away from the empty brains that ask:

How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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How I wrote "Plastic Man"
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Let's just nail what's going on here. Mark E Smith liked reading Plastic Man when he was growing up. But - eternally grateful to his past influences as he was - it was 'How I Wrote Elastic Man', and hundreds of other songs, that he was responsible for as a recording artist. And not anything by Johnny Rotten, Elvis Costello or Paul Weller. Likewise George Shaw may have enjoyed listening to Fall records when he was a teenager. But I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, and hundreds of other paintings of Tile Hill, was the mature work he was responsible for. And not anything by Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland, Howard Hodgkin (ha-ha) or David Hockney. No I don't mean him, I mean Alan Bennett.

"Love that play of yours, George. The one about the lady in the van that you let stay on your drive in Tile Hill."

I'm so glad that Shaw has chosen a Fall song for his 'Last days of Belief' project. I laboured a Fall connection in the earlier pages of this site, 'Of Innocence', and 'The Path Out', setting up the conceit that The Black Prince was the ideal place to listen to 'Bingo Master's Breakout'. But 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' is also a favourite Fall song, so I have to milk this for all it's worth.


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George Shaw. I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

For a start, I would like to find the site for this ambitious and evocative, subtle and mysterious painting. I hoped it might be in the vicinity of the Black Prince, but an aerial shot doesn't reveal the bare spot in grass that I am looking for. The turquoise-roofed building is the Black Prince, surrounded by a fair amount of lawn.

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In the bottom right of the above photo there is a bare patch of about the right size that I thought worth investigating. The little window there shows where I swopped from aerial view to Street View. But when I looked up close, this is what I found...

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...Just a tree stump.

Having considered a plan of the whole of Tile Hill, I thought I should check out the green space closest to the Shaw household. George has painted this patch of land several times. For example:

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George Shaw. Title and size pending.

Heart and Soul, One will Burn
Heart and soul. One will Burn.


No sign of the above fire in this or any other Google image of this particular patch of grass.

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But the Google archive shows that objects can come and go, leaving no trace. Below is a picture taken at the same site. The yellow plastic container of salt/gravel appears then it disappears.

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And here is a photo, not available on Google, but found pinned to George Shaw's studio wall, part of a shot included in the catalogue
What I Did This Summer.

tilehill5

This photo may be significant in that it suggests to me that the rusted metal object is in fact something that once held a sign, perhaps like the one above which says that adults and children over 10 should not be playing ball games on the grass.

So where do I go from here? I do two things simultaneously knowing that the combination may be joy-bringing. I go back to the Fall song via Youtube; I take a walk through Tile Hill courtesy of the Google camera.

His last work was "Space Mystery" in the Daily Mail,
An article in
Leather Thighs
The only thing real is waking and rubbing your eyes
So I'm resigned to bed
I keep bottles and comics stuffed by its head
Fuck it, let the beard grow
I'm too tired,
I'll do it tomorrow
The fridge is sparse
But in the town
They'll stop me in the shops
Verily they'll track me down
Touch my shoulder and ignore my dumb mission
And sick red-faced smile
And they will ask me
And they will ask me
How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man".

Screen shot 2017-09-02 at 14.00.31

"How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man"."

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"How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man"."

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"How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man"."

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"How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man"."

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"How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "Plastic Man"."

Screen shot 2017-09-02 at 14.05.57 - Version 2

How I wrote "Plastic Man",
How I wrote "
PLASTIC MAN"

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George Shaw. I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

In case you're in any doubt, I have
not found the exact site for the painting. Though in the route marked on the map below there are several of the empty frames and a few with signs still left in them.

The only bent frame I could find (marked along Robert Cramb Avenue, the south side of the green square in the bottom half of the aerial view below), may seem like an exact fit, but there is no bare patch around the metal object. And in the background, there is a brick wall rather than a larger patch of bare earth, similar as they may superficially seem.

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But I'm happy to leave it there. With much of the mystery of the object still intact. Besides, it's high time I moved onto the next painting.

Before I do that, I need to say what's happened here. At one time, before 1980 let's say, you'd walk the streets of suburbia in general and southern Tile Hill in particular, and be confronted with the sign:

PROHIBITED ON THIS AREA
THE PLAYING OF ANY BALL
GAMES AND GAMES BY ADULTS
AND CHILDREN OVER THE AGE
OF 10 YEARS.
MAXIMUM PENALTY £100

Nowadays, if you're lucky to be walking the modern world in the footsteps of George Shaw and Mark E Smith, the signs all read:

BE ELASTIC
OR PLASTIC
ERGO FANTASTIC

This tentative pattern identification reminds me that the first two George Shaw paintings considered on this page feature a piling up of wood - as for a fire in a patch of woodland - and the daubing of crude shapes on an end wall of housing that was due to be renovated by the council. Interventions in the landscape by both the establishment and individuals. Difficult to say, at this early stage in my exploration of Shaw's current exhibition, whose interventions are the more abject.



FOUR:
YOUR WINNING DAY WAS LONG AGO

OK, moving right along the wall of the Wilkinson Gallery, the streets of Tile Hill, we come to painting four of seven:

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George Shaw. Your Winning Day Was Long Ago, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

The title,
Your Winning Day Was Long Ago, is a line from Dexys Midnight Runners song, 'I'm Just Looking'. What an inspiring group Dexys were. Every single they released seemed original and compelling. 'Geno', 'There, There My Dear' and 'Come on Eileen' are the ones I recall being moved - and moved to dance - by.

The catalogue to the show I mentioned earlier,
Art Rediscovering Rock Music, contains a questionnaire that was answered by all participating artists. George Shaw's answer to the question 'What's Your Favourite Album Cover? is, as seen below, Searching For the Young Soul Rebels by Dexys Midnight Runners.

searching_for_the_young_soul_rebels_jpg_w300h300

It puts a boy right in the middle of the frame. Could it be George Shaw, or me or you, the reader? And what is the boy doing? Could he be looking for the young soul rebels on the city streets? We all wander through the streets of our youth, either alone or with a few like-minded pals for company, our footsteps guided by gifted individuals a bit older than us, who have an inkling of where life's magic might be found.

Ian Curtis, Joe Strummer, Mark E Smith, John Lydon, Kevin Rowlands, these are/were hugely gifted individuals. And the huge gift is life itself.

Screen shot 2017-09-06 at 21.34.37

Let's listen to Kevin Rowlands of Dexys. It's a very slow song
this one, crackling with intensity as is all his best stuff:

You're looking to win it, but not taking it in
Uppers give heart impotence but don't tell you anything.
People are saying, you're losing your feel
Pretend you don't hear.

Holed up in white Harlem, your conscience and you
You might need sympathy but thats not what I'd tell you
Your winning day was long ago
Don't let it show.

'I'm Just Looking' was an album track and a b-side. Maybe it was a favourite of George Shaw's, or it may be that the chosen line itself has significance. 'Your Winning Day was long Ago' could be a reference to George at 14. But it seems to me there is also an attempt going on to give Tile Hill archaeological significance that it doesn't have. In other words, there might be something timeless about the stone in front of the wall, just as there might be something timeless about the metal structure on the grass of I'm Eternally Grateful To My Past Influences.

The site for the current picture is very close to the Shaw household of George's youth. At least I think it is. The brick wall with the single row of blue bricks on top is a recurring motif in this part of the estate.

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In the right half of the above photo, the wall goes downhill, descending by one layer of brick, then a bit further along dropping by a further two bricks. The trees in the above photo obscure that. And I can't get a view perpendicular to the end wall because the Google camera does not go down the path that descends parallel to this wall. The only other spot from where the wall can be glimpsed gives us the view below. If you look closely, you see the wall descending (by one brick or two?) just above the side window of the red van.

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Going back to the wall again as seen from Roosevelt Drive. It seems to me that some of the trees and bushes in the photo below have been cut down by the time Shaw took the photo that his picture is painted from.

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Though some must have remained to account for both the main horizontal shadow on the wall and the vertical shadow of the tree trunk.

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George Shaw. Your Winning Day Was Long Ago, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

Where did the stone come from? Was it put there after the bushes were cut down? Or did the cutting of the bushes reveal it, giving the impression that it had always been there? Well, no, it's not always been there. It's not a 'standing stone', after all. It looks as if the stone has been placed on top of the ground rather than embedded into it. Indeed, it looks as if it's leaning against the wall.

"Come and see the Great Stone of Tile Hill.
Crapping on anything to be found at Stonehenge or Avebury.
And realise:
Our Winning Day was Long Ago."

Just outside the house I lived in as a child. A driveway covered in grey chips where local; boys would play football. I was the oldest and on occasion would take on the rest of the group and beat them. I wonder if someone has erected a stone with a plaque which reads: 'HIS WINNING DAY WAS LONG AGO'.



FIVE: IT AIN'T EASY WHEN YOUR LOVERS ARE ALL GONE

Moving right along to the next painting: five of seven. For which we must dive back into the woods:

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George Shaw. It Ain't Easy When Your Lovers Are All Gone, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

George Shaw is in the habit of seeing crucified Jesus Christs in the woods, but on this occasion it would seem to be Jerry Dammers. Maybe the following photo gives the idea, though I'm not sure if the ribbon tied round the tree best gives the impression of narrow eyes and long nose in a long head, or a collar-and-tie on skinny body.

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From 1979 to 1981 the Specials had seven top-ten hits, including 'Too Much Too Young'. But the line of the painting's title comes from
Pearl's Cafe.
Here are the lyrics:

You saw a woman in a cafe, lips of crimson, yellow grin
Her shoes were wrong and she looked extremely thin
Her jewels were faked, she'd had a rinse, her hair was grayish blue
She looked ashamed when she explained to you

It ain't easy when there's no one to lean on
It ain't easy when there's nobody there
It ain't easy when your lovers are all gone
Nobody there, nobody cares

Maybe I'm wrong thinking that I can see Jerry Dammers in the wood. Maybe it's the thin, crimson-lipped woman from Pearl's café.

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George Shaw. It Ain't Easy When Your Lovers Are All Gone, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

The rest of the lyrics? Yeah, why not?...

The pubs were closed, she'd got nowhere to go
When she'd spilled her tea
Have you never thought, one day that could be me?
Her temper changed, she looked so deranged
Her perfume turned to gin
You looked at her and she began to sing

It's all a load of bollocks
It's all a load of bollocks
It's all a load of bollocks
And bollocks to it all

The Specials have a special place in George Shaw's affection because they are a Coventry band. We know they have a special place in his heart because they feature in the answers to two of the five questions in the questionnaire I've already mentioned from
Art Reconsidering Rock Music.

Q: What record made you change the way you look?
A: What record didn't!
The Specials by The Specials

Q: What record would you like to have played at your funeral?
A:
Enjoy Yourself by The Specials.

Each artist in
Art Reconsidering Rock Music is given two pages to express their views about the music that influenced them and how that influence manifested itself. In the interview, conducted by Emma Mahoney, the enterprising book's editor, Shaw reveals that: 'he trudged the grey streets from the red brick school stopping off at the Knockout Fish Bar before making his way home'. The title of the work pictured below, For the Boys on the Back Seat suggests he sometimes made the journey from school to home by bus. The school in question, Bishop Ullathorne Catholic secondary school, is in Coventry, but it's three or four miles south of Tile Hill and does not feature in the Tile Hill ouevre as far as I'm aware.

tilehill5_0004
George Shaw. For the Boys on the Back Seat, 1999. Acrylic on rucksacks.

In the interview, Shaw reveals that he decorated a number of his friends bags in return for money or school meal tickets. I've seen bags celebrating Joy Division, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols and Dexy's Midnight Runners. These were made in 1999, after the Tile Hill painting project was underway. As Shaw told Mahoney, '
Some of the bags are copies of the ones I remember making and others are what I would have made if I'd had the time, or could have been bothered, or hadn't grown up.'



SIX:
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDLANDS

Let's get out of the woods and take stock of the next picture. Six of seven.

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George Shaw. Somewhere in the Midlands, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

The title Somewhere in the Midlands is a line from a song by the Stranglers called 'Who Wants the World'. Ah, the Stranglers, ever present in the late seventies and early eighties thanks to the punchy, melodic guitar of Jean-Jacques Burnel and the grungey vocals of Hugh Cornwell.

Time for another joint stroll through Tile Hill (via Google) and memory lane (via Youtube). There are two roundabouts on Jardine Crescent which can be seen on the aerial view below.


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Over to the men in black:

"Came down on a Monday
Somewhere in the Midlands
Tasted man, tasted flea,
Couldn't tell the difference."

Of course, there is a difference between the two roundabouts. It's the northern one that George Shaw has made use of for Somewhere in the Midlands.

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"Asked around on Tuesday
Got nothing from a tree
The guide had said
"What talks is red"
That's all there is to see."

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George Shaw. Somewhere in the Midlands (detail), 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

"Looked around on Wednesday
Took in all the sights
The Promised Land they'd left to man
Been ruined overnight."

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"Peering through the port-holes
With teardrops in their eyes
The ship they took for one last look
At Thursday's setting sun-rise."

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George Shaw. Somewhere in the Midlands (detail), 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

"Who wants the world?
Who wants the world?
Who wants the world?

Not me, not me, not me, not me."

Let's allow the Stranglers to take off in their spaceship. And let's think a little harder about what we've got here. The road authorities have placed the white markings of the roundabout on the road. But who has placed the red and white bollards? I suppose it would have been the police, in an effort to remind motorists that they're supposed to drive around not over the white circle.

Maybe not though. Maybe the same person who tied the red-stained bow around the tree trunk placed the bollards around the roundabout. There are plenty guys who go around endlessly making pretty patterns as a way of fending off the dark. Think Richard Long. Think George Shaw. Think me.



SEVEN:
MAYBE I'M LOSING MY TOUCH

Onto the last of the seven paintings on wall one. A blue painting to add to the yellow picture (
Ash Wednesday, 10.30am) and the red one (We are Making an Old World) discussed on other pages of this site.

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George Shaw. Maybe I'm losing My Touch, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

The double yellow lines was a help in locating the site of this painting. I reckoned it was one of the main roads running through Tile Hill. Broad Lane or Banner Lane or Tile Hill Lane. And pretty soon I realised that Banner Lane looked the most promising.

The site pictured below is not quite right (there is no space for a horizontal BT manhole cover between the posts and the verge), but close.

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Banner Lane features several such places that are almost right.

While I keep looking, let's say something about the song that inspires Maybe I'm Losing My Touch. It's 'Rescue' by Echo and the Bunnymen. Follow it on Youtube or simply read the lyrics:

"If I said I'd lost my way
Would you sympathise
Could you sympathise
I'm jumbled up
Maybe I'm losing my touch."

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"Things are wrong
Things are going wrong
Can you tell that in a song
Losing sense of those harder things
Is this the blues I'm singing
Is this the blues I'm singing...."

The site pictured below is the right one. Two concrete posts then a metal one. With a cast concrete BT grill consisting of three sections newly laid (judging by the black plastic to one side of it) in 2011. The metal post is gone by the time the Google camera passed by in 2015, which suggests George Saw photographed the scene in order to paint it between 2011 and 2015. Well, obviously it wasn't after that as the painting was exhibited in 2015.

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A reminder of Maybe I'm Losing My Touch:

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George Shaw. Maybe I'm losing My Touch, 2015: Humbrol enamel on board. 56 x 74.5cm

Significant, I think, that the song ends with repeated singing of the line: "Is this the blues I'm singing?"

Significant too, that if in 2011, after taking in the above view straight ahead, you turned and looked over your right shoulder, you'd have seen this:

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Whereas by July 2012, the Massey Ferguson Tower had gone, reduced to a pile of rubble as seen below.

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I've heard George Shaw say that he needs to feel there is a lot going on in an image that he's painting, as he'll be painting it for a long time. As he was painting Maybe I'm losing My Touch in 2015, from a photo he'd taken in 2011 at the earliest, he must have been conscious of the Massey Ferguson tower. It's coming and going. Is a flat concrete BT manhole cover any substitute for a 16-storey tower? What is Shaw really commemorating in this picture? The coming of fibre optic cabling to Tile Hill. No need to go to the local shop to buy porn mags any more. Porn is pumped into every household at a rate of knots and can be accessed by the merest click of a mouse. No need to guiltily take piles of porn to the woods to dispose of any more either. Just select the 'Clear Recent History' from the drop down window on your internet browser and Bob's your confessed and forgiven uncle.

Is this the blues I'm singing?

There is something else that's going on, at least in my mind. 'Rescue' was a track released as a single from Echo and the Bunnymen's second album, Crocodiles. For the album cover art, photos of the band were taken in a wood at night.

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Bill Drummond, now a driven and compelling artist, was the manager of Echo and the Bunnymen back in 1980. In 1999 he sent me a copy of a book he'd written about that time in his life. And in
From the Shores of Lake Placid, he writes this:

'The album came out summer 1980. Crocodiles. It got five-star lead reviews. The Bunnymen were on the front cover of music papers. The album still sounded shit. And the band knew it.'

Ah, straight-talking Bill Drummond! He who had a number one single with the KLF in 1987. He who burned a million quid as part of the K Foundation in 1994. He who in 2014 embarked on a 10-year world tour of one man shows, starting at Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham, that will end in 2025, also at Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham, by which time he'll be 73. Anyway, in Bill's self-published book, he goes on:

'But a couple of months later, I was sitting on the battered sofa in The Zoo office in Button Street, a copy of the Crocodiles' sleeve on the floor. From where I was sitting, the photo on the front was foreshortened. I imagined I could see something in the picture that I hadn't noticed before. The picture depicted the four members of the band all looking aimlessly in different directions. Les, the most central figure, was leaning against the trunk of an ash tree. The tree must have been coppiced at some time because it had two primary trunks that had grown to twist gently around each other. I went out into the street with the sleeve of the record and asked a passer-by, a middle-aged woman, if she would look at this album sleeve from a certain angle. What did the ash tree in the middle look like? "The head of a spooky rabbit. Why, what am I supposed to see?" She confirmed my suspicions.

That's a long quote from BIll Drummond, who was trying to pin down who or what 'Echo' was. But it's far too long a time since I've been in touch with Bill and it will give me an excuse to send him the link to this text and ask him where he is in his world tour. Somewhere in the Midlands?



OUTRO

Let's take stock. Here is the location of the seven paintings along one wall of the 2015 Shaw exhibition at Wilkinson Gallery in so far as I have tracked them down.

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Top left: Echo and the Bunnymen.

In the woods (arbitrary locations): Joy Division and the Specials.

Then, from north to south, to the east of the wood: The Stranglers, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Clash and the Fall.

But as we've seen, Echo and the Bunnymen, with the assistance of Bill Drummond, can be relocated to the wood easily enough, like so:

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And having taken that liberty, the next move is just a logical extension of the last...

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Imagine that: Tile Hill Rock Festival. One special day in summer 1980, when those seven bands played Tile Hill Wood, showcasing the talents in particular of Joe Strummer, Burnel and Cornwell, Ian McCulloch, Ian Curtis (better make it spring, 1980), Mark E Smith, Kevin Rowlands and Jerry Dammers.

Of course, back then the Massey Ferguson tower was still standing on the bare patch on the top left of the aerial view. Towards the top of that building is where the festival bar would have been located, I like to think. And it's there that I would have been happy to stand, beer can in hand, looking down onto the woodland stage.

I may have preferred to stand there, necking strong lager, for the sets of The Clash, The Stranglers and Echo and the Bunnymen. But when the chant
"It's all a load of bollocks'' went up at the start of 'Pearl's Café' by The Specials, alluding to the Sex Pistols stunning achievement, I believe I would have slipped down the stairs and got myself into the wood. And I would have stayed close to the action for the whole of Joy Division's set, nipping back to the tower for a can before getting back to the front of the stage for Dexys' set.

Of course, the band I would have made sure I saw up close, in full, back then (with the benefit of hindsight) would have been The Fall. Led by the relentless Mark E Smith. 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' was the band's second single of the year. Their third was 'Totally Wired' and there is a line on the b-side which has Smith shouting:
"The only reason you know this, is that it was well documented." And whoever pressed the 7-inch single has etched that line into the black plastic at the end of the track itself.

I think it's a fitting line to end this page with. Well, three lines, actually:

The only reason you know this, is that it was well documented by those seven splendid bands, led by those switched-on, mostly disaffected working-class, singer-songwriters.

The only reason you know this, is that it was well documented by George Shaw, painter of the post-punk generation's heart and soul.

The only reason you know this is that it was well documented by me, your humble scribe, who was, my diary informs me, mistaken for Elvis Costello on my birthday in 1980.

Or let me put it this way. I'm Eternally Grateful to My Past influences / So We Came to Jazz it Up / Your Winning Day was Long Ago / Somewhere in the Midlands / Maybe I'm Losing My Touch / It Ain't Easy When Your Lovers are All Gone / One Will Burn.

There is more to be said. Seven paintings may be down and but there are still seven to go.

Whoopee or not whoopee, that is the question.

Typical Elvis Costello! Never knew when to stop with the word-play.

Which prompts me to end with the image below. Something very Elvissy - très Costelloesque - that John Strutton - a close friend of George Shaw's when both were studying for MAs in Painting at the Royal College in the 1990s - kindly sent me. He did so after I'd reviewed
Air Guitar: Artists Reconsidering Rock Music in the pages of an art magazine in 2002.

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John Strutton. 7", 2002: watercolour, gouache and ink drawing on paper

My light shines off.

"My aim is true."

OFF!









Acknowledgements

1) The images of George Shaw’s works on this site are copyright the artist.

2) Thanks to Google for the use of their Google Maps and associated tools.

3) Thanks to Darren G and Rik Rawling for providing images of the show.

4) I've quoted song lyrics without permission but with the forbearance, I hope, of the relevant copyright holders.

5) Thanks to ondeafearsblog for making publically available many Plastic Man mag covers on his video of 'How I Wrote Elastic Man'.