THE LOST OF ENGLAND:


INTRODUCTION




It's late July, 2019. Following the Brexit vote in summer 2016, Brexit was on George Shaw's mind nearly a year later as he began to paint the pictures for an exhibition that would run at Maruani Mercier in Brussels for most of September, 2017. Brexit is still on everyone's mind in summer, 2019, as the possibility looms of the UK leaving the European Union without
a trade deal at the end of October.

If you click
here, this will take you to the relevant page at Maruani Mercier where you can enjoy a quick whirl round the exhibition. Subsequent pages back here will go into detail about most of the fourteen individual paintings.

Google Maps and its cameras are going to help me; I'm confident that I'll be able to locate the site of each painting. Nigel and Boris are going to help me; every step of the long and winding way.

In connection with 'The Lost of England', there is an interview between George Shaw and his fellow artist, Jeremy Deller, that took place in summer, 2017, and which appears in full in
George Shaw: A Corner of a Foreign Field. As I write about the paintings, one extract in particular will be borne in mind:

JD:
"Do you think this recent work is a reaction to Brexit?"

GS:
"I'm not a political artist. Looking at things which have been my subject for so long and are part of my own history - that's to do with the '70s and '80s, something that's filtered through not only my experiences of being there but also the experience of watching art and literature and pop music that comes out of that time. So there was a nostalgic element. I mean, in some senses it was like a way of writing myself into that history."

JD:
"As a product of that time?"

GS:
"Yeah. But also wanting to see myself on a shelf together with, you know, the Specials, Dennis Potter, the early Jam albums. That's where I want to be - not at Tate Modern, not in the bookshop there, but within the bookshelf of my mind, I suppose."

A little later in the conversation, Shaw adds:

GS:
"But returning to the work I'm doing now - as I prepared to begin a new set of paintings for the Yale show, I knew I wanted to do something that kind of acknowledged the world that was coming in. And just round about that time, Brexit comes in, quite literally, with jackboots on. And I think if you're a person that's supposed to be visually aware, how can you not take all that on board? And especially taking Britain or England as subject matter in my work and in the way I talk about my work, I have a certain image of being… well, I couldn't ignore it but I'm not a conceptual or political artist. And then right in the middle of this Brexit period, I get asked 'Oh, do you want to do the show in Brussels?' within a commercial gallery in the centre of Belgium, not far from some government buildings."

Again, a little later in the conversation, referring specifically to Brexit:

JD: "It's definitely split the country, geographically and ideologically."

GS: "I don't have a great knowledge of English or British history. I can't tell you the kings and queens. I didn't pay attention to history at school. What I'm interested in is a certain atmosphere, the way Peter Ackroyd writes about Britain, almost like it's in the air."

Right, I have to leave these introductory remarks there. Pardon my haste. As I write, the votes have been counted but not yet announced as to who is going to be the new Tory leader and Prime Minister of the UK. I've got to get some of what's on my mind typed out before that happens. Starting with
this.

No politics where none intended.